Bidirectional associations of intellectual and social activities with cognitive function among middle-aged and elderly adults in China

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Affective Disorders



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School of Medical and Health Sciences


National major R&D projects of China-Scientific technological innovation 2030 [grant numbers 2021ZD0201801 and 2021ZD0201802] / National Natural Science Foundation of China [grant number 81872682] / Beijing Municipal Health System Special Funds of High-Level Medical Personnel Construction [grant number 2022-3-042]


Li, X., Zhang, J., Hou, R., Zheng, M., Singh, M., Li, H., ... & Zheng, D. (2022). Bidirectional associations of intellectual and social activities with cognitive function among middle-aged and elderly adults in China. Journal of Affective Disorders, 319, 83-89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2022.09.031


Background: Previous studies evaluating the association between leisure activities and cognitive function produced conflicting results. Different types of leisure activities may have different effects on cognition, and very few studies have explored their bidirectional associations. Our study aimed to explore whether intellectual and social activities had bidirectional associations with cognitive function among the middle-aged and elderly adults in China. Methods: Data was derived from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study. The data in this study were based on 11,549 participants aged 45 or older whose intellectual and social activities and cognitive function were assessed at baseline. Cross-lagged panel model was used to examine the temporal relationship of intellectual and social activities with cognitive function. Results: Totally, 5624 participants completed the third follow-up in 2018. The results showed that the better the cognitive function they had at baseline, the more intellectual activities they were engage in (β = 0.044, P < 0.001) and vice versa (β = 0.042, P = 0.001). Additionally, better cognitive function at baseline was significantly associated with more engagement in social activities (β = 0.028, P = 0.030); in contrast, higher engagement in social activities at baseline was not related to better cognitive function (β = −0.008, P = 0.523). Limitations: Engagement in social and intellectual activities was assessed via questionnaire. Conclusions: Our findings indicated that there was a bidirectional relationship between intellectual activities and cognitive function. However, participation in social activities did not slow down the decline in cognitive function. Participating in intellectual activities, compared to social activities, is especially beneficial for cognitive function.



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