Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Stacey Wood

Reader 2

Jennifer Groscup

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© 2023 Samantha A Kinder


Dementia is one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century, with cases expected to nearly double over the next 20 years as the population ages, placing a tremendous burden on older adults, their caregivers, and the health care system (Zissimopoulos et al., 2018). Given the absence of a cure, studying dementia prevention is of critical importance. Modifiable risk factors may account for as much as 35% of the prevalence of dementia, and social isolation has been identified as one potential risk factor (Livingston et al., 2017). Due to the slow, progressive nature of many dementias, it is not clear from the existing literature whether social isolation precedes cognitive decline. Further, little is known about what mechanisms might account for any proposed causal association between social factors and dementia. The proposed longitudinal cohort study of a cognitively healthy, middle-aged sample will examine whether social isolation predicts the development of dementia over 30 years and whether poor health behaviors, mental distress, or physiological dysregulation contribute to that association. Social isolation is expected to increase the risk of dementia. This relationship is expected to diminish once mediators are accounted for, suggesting that social factors may influence cognitive decline through behavioral, mental, and physiological pathways. This information will inform public health officials about avenues of intervention most likely to impact cognitive health. Interventions aimed at addressing social isolation, and/or related mediators, may slow or prevent the onset of dementia. Even moderate changes in risk can yield large benefits population-wide.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.