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The impact of social networks and APOE ε4 on dementia among older adults: Tests of possible interactions

Journal article
Authors Jing Wu
Caroline Hasselgren
Anna Zettergren
Henrik Zetterberg
Kaj Blennow
Ingmar Skoog
Björn Halleröd
Published in Aging & Mental Health
Volume 24
Issue 3
Pages 1-10
ISSN 1360-7863
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Centre for Ageing and Health (Agecap)
Pages 1-10
Language en
Keywords Social networks, APOE ε4, dementia, gender, longitudinal study
Subject categories Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology), Psychiatry, Older people and ageing


Objectives: Emerging evidence suggests that social networks may protect against the development of dementia among older adults. In this study we analysed the association between social networks, the apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele, and dementia. We also investigated whether there were gender-specific patterns in this respect. Method: The analyses used population-based longitudinal data from Gothenburg, Sweden: the H70 Birth Cohort Study and the Prospective Population Study on Women (PPSW). A total of 580 individuals born in 1930 underwent semi-structured neuropsychiatric examinations in 2000–2001. Follow-up examinations were carried out in 2005–2006 and 2009–2010. The timing of dementia onset was analysed using Cox proportional hazards regression. Results: The presence of the APOE ε4 allele affected the risk of developing dementia in both genders. Among women, distant social networks had a protective effect on dementia, while among men the significant associations between close social networks and dementia did not remain after controlling for covariates. Significant interactions between social networks and the APOE ε4 allele were not found. Conclusion: Strong social networks do not seem to moderate the increased risk of dementia implied by the APOE ε4 allele. Nevertheless, our results underline the importance of strong social networks in postponing dementia onset and indicate that their impact may differ among men and women.

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