Mid-life economic problems tied to cognitive decline
While previous research has suggested that working conditions could affect cognitive performance in adults, a new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health focused on finding out whether events such as economic recessions – over which individuals have little control–had any effect on cognition. The conclusion? They can.
The researchers assessed data from the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), which involved 12,000 individuals in 11 countries. The survey looked at health, employment and social conditions of Europeans over the age of 50. The cognitive abilities of study participants from 2004 to 2007 were analyzed retrospectively in 2008-09 and were linked to detailed work histories. Additionally, the researchers looked at yearly per capita fluctuations in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in each of the 11 countries between 1959 and 2003 to determine economic downturns. From there, the team assessed the impact of recessions the individuals experienced at ages 25-34, 35-44, and 45-49 on cognitive ability during the ages of 50-74.
The analysis revealed that those who lived through economic recessions in early to mid-life were at a higher risk of cognitive decline after the age of 50. The researchers noted that economic recessions during these time periods were associated with adverse conditions, such as layoffs, enforced part-time working and the need to take work at lower pay.
The researchers said that if replicated in future studies, their findings “indicate that policies that ameliorate the impact of recessions on labor market outcomes may promote later-life cognitive function.”