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Association between functional social support and cognitive function in middle-aged and older adults: a protocol for a systematic review
  1. Emily C Rutter1,
  2. Suzanne L Tyas1,
  3. Colleen J Maxwell1,2,
  4. Jane Law1,3,
  5. Megan E O'Connell4,
  6. Candace A Konnert5,
  7. Mark Oremus1
  1. 1School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2School of Pharmacy, University of Waterloo, Waterlo, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3School of Planning, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4Department of Psychology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  5. 5Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mark Oremus; moremus{at}


Introduction Maintenance of cognitive function into old age is important for ageing populations. Researchers seek to identify modifiable risk and protective factors for cognitive function. One such modifiable factor is functional social support, that is, one’s perception of whether their social network can provide resources such as material help, companionship, information and emotional contact, if needed. While the literature generally reports positive associations between functional social support and cognitive function, results vary according to study methods such as the tool used to measure functional social support or the specific cognitive domain under investigation. Our review will summarise the association between functional social support and cognitive function in middle-aged and older-aged adults who reside in any setting (eg, community dwelling, long-term care facilities). We will also identify sources of discrepant findings between studies.

Methods and analysis This protocol was reported according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis Protocols guideline. PubMed, PsycINFO, Sociological Abstracts, Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) and Scopus will be searched from inception to the present using a search strategy developed with a medical librarian’s help. We will supplement the database searches with a grey literature search. English-language or French-language studies with a comparison group will be subject to inclusion, regardless of the measures used to assess functional social support or cognitive function. We will assess risk of bias with the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool-Version 2 or the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale, narratively synthesise the extracted data and conduct a meta-analysis of studies with similar characteristics (eg, sample age and sex, cognitive function outcomes). Two independent raters will screen articles and assess risk of bias.

Ethics and dissemination This review is timely given the push toward early diagnosis and treatment of dementia/major neurocognitive disorder and other types of cognitive impairment. This protocol does not require a formal ethics review. We will publish our findings in a peer-reviewed journal.

  • old age psychiatry
  • epidemiology
  • dementia
  • delirium & cognitive disorders

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Contributors All authors were involved in the conception and design of the work. ECR and MO drafted the manuscript and the remaining authors critically revised the manuscript for important intellectual content. All authors gave final approval for the manuscript to be published and they agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work. MO is guarantor of the manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by Velux Stiftung grant number 1190.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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