The influence of social support and perceived stress on response time inconsistency

Sandi Phibbs, Robert S. Stawski, Stuart W.S. MacDonald, Elizabeth Munoz, Joshua M. Smyth, Martin J. Sliwinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objectives: Lack of social support and high levels of stress represent potentially modifiable risk factors for cognitive aging. In this study we examined the relationships between these two risk factors and response time inconsistency (RTI), or trial-to-trial variability in choice response time tasks. RTI is an early indicator of declining cognitive health, and examining the influence of modifiable psychosocial risk factors on RTI is important for understanding and promoting cognitive health during adulthood and old age. Methods: Using data from a community sample study (n = 317; M age = 49, range = 19–83), we examined the effects of social support, including size of network and satisfaction with support, global perceived stress, and their interactions on RTI. Results: Neither size of network nor satisfaction with support was associated with RTI independent of perceived stress. Stress was positively associated with increased RTI on all tasks, independent of social support. Perceived stress did not interact with either dimension of social support to predict RTI, and perceived stress effects were invariant across age and sex. Conclusion: Perceived stress, but not social support, may be a unique and modifiable risk factor for normal and pathological cognitive aging. Discussion focuses on the importance of perceived stress and its impact on RTI in supporting cognitive health in adulthood and old age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-221
Number of pages8
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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