Online Program

Satisfaction with Social Support Buffers the Effect of Perceived Stress on Response Time Inconsistency

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sandi Phibbs, PhD, MPH, School of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences, Oregon State University, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Corvallis, OR
Robert Stawski, PhD, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, School of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Stuart W.S. MacDonald, Ph.D, Department of Psychology and Centre on Aging, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada
Joshua Smyth, PhD, Biobehavioral Health, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Martin J. Sliwinski, Ph.D., Department of Human Development and Family Studies and Center for Healthy Aging, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA
Social support has been identified as a protective factor for maintaining cognitive health into advanced age (Seeman et al., 2001), and may operate either by directly reducing stress or by buffering stress effects (Cohen & Willis, 1985). Response time inconsistency (RTI), trial-to-trial variability in response times, may signal transient lapses of attention, compromised cognitive status and central nervous system integrity, as well as normal and pathological cognitive aging (Hultsch et al., 2008; MacDonald et al., 2006). The effect of social support on RTI is currently unclear; the current study examined the unique and interactive effects of reported social support and perceived stress on RTI during adulthood and old age. Community-dwelling adults (N=317, Mage= 49.44, SD=17.23, range: 19-83; 36% Black) completed measures of social support (size of network and satisfaction with support) and computerized RT-based processing speed tasks. Regression analyses (adjusted for average RT, age, sex, race, ethnicity, and overall health) revealed three findings. First, social support was not directly predictive of RTI.  Second, perceived stress was associated with greater RTI (p<0.05). Finally, satisfaction with social support, but not network size, moderated the effect of perceived stress (p<0.05) such that the effect of perceived stress on RTI was weaker among those reporting greater satisfaction with support. Findings are consistent with the buffering hypothesis of social support and suggest that social support may be an important factor for cognitive health throughout adulthood and old age.

Learning Areas:

Chronic disease management and prevention
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain the utility of response time inconsistency as a novel indicator of cognitive health. Describe the role of social support satisfaction as a buffer against the effects of stress on cognitive function during adulthood and aging. Discuss perceived stress and social support as potentially modifiable risk and resilience factors for promoting cognitive health in advanced age.

Keyword(s): Aging, Stress

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: As a student researcher I have been trained on conducting quantitative analyses, and I was fully supervised by the Principle Investigator (Stawski) of this and other federally funded grants focusing on response time inconsistencies, stress, and cognitive aging. As a student of public health, social support has been among my research interests.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.