Researchers have examined whether social engagement interventions (SEI) preserve cognition. However, there is a lack of consensus regarding the overall efficacy of these strategies. Thus, a meta-analysis was conducted to assess the average effect of socially stimulating interventions impact on measures of cognitive function among older adults.
Electronic databases, journals, and reference sections were searched for primary studies assessing quasi-experimental and randomized controlled trials of SEI, in addition to other inclusion/exclusion criteria. Data from 24 primary studies were collected using a coding manual to capture study descriptors in addition to effect size (ES) information. A random effects model was utilized when testing the significance of the average effect found when comparing treatment and control groups. Additionally, nominal and continuous variables were evaluated as moderators using an analog to an analysis of variance, and a weighted regression analysis, respectively. The mean ES for the sample of studies was small, was statistically significant. Significant average effects were found when studies utilized outcome measures of verbal memory and global cognition. There was not a significant difference in the average effect between studies that included individuals with a clinical diagnosis of dementia and those studies that examined individuals without a diagnosis. Furthermore, the average age of the sample as a predictor did not explain a significant amount of variance in the ES estimates, however as the age of participants increased the ES estimates also increased. The present study suggests that SEI offer a beneficial impact on cognition and could be a cost-effective complementary treatment for cognitive decline among older adults.
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