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Motor Function Declines Faster in Less Socially Active Elders

Last Updated: June 22, 2009.

Older adults who do not participate frequently in social activities are likely to experience a more rapid decline in motor function than their more socially active counterparts, according to a study published in the June 22 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

MONDAY, June 22 (HealthDay News) -- Older adults who do not participate frequently in social activities are likely to experience a more rapid decline in motor function than their more socially active counterparts, according to a study published in the June 22 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Aron S. Buchman, M.D., and colleagues at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago conducted a study of 906 older adults without stroke, dementia or Parkinson's disease at baseline, who gave information about their levels of social activity and who were followed up for a mean 4.9 years. A composite measure of motor function was derived from nine measures of muscle strength and nine motor performances.

At baseline the mean social activity score was 2.6, and each one-point drop in social activity was associated with a one-third increase in the rate of motor function decline, and was equivalent to being five years older at baseline, the investigators found. The association held after controlling for confounders and regardless of demographic factors, the researchers note.

"The basis for the association between social activity and decline in motor function is uncertain. Emerging evidence suggests that efficient goal-directed movement requires the orchestration and integration of a wide range of sensory, motor, and cognitive functions," the authors write. "Both successful social and motor behavior depend on the structural and functional integrity of neural systems."

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