Racial disparities in cognitive decline

Image of Ann W. Nguyen, PhD

Research highlights value of social networks

Last year, the U.S. Surgeon General raised an alarm: We're experiencing an epidemic of loneliness and isolation associated with greater risks of diseases and even premature death.

Now, a study co-authored by Case Western Reserve's Ann Nguyen, PhD, examines how social networks affect the cognitive health of older Black Americans—a population far more likely than its white counterpart to develop Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

Using national data, the research suggested Black Americans with a strong network of friends were more likely to have better cognitive health.

"Understanding and addressing modifiable risk factors are essential for eliminating the racial disparities in cognitive health outcomes," said Nguyen, an associate professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. "Social factors are specifically modifiable, meaning that we can change them."

This story appeared in the spring/summer 2024 issue of Think magazine.