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People Living through Recessions in Mid-Life Could be More Susceptible to Cognitive Decline

Update Date: Nov 21, 2013 09:47 AM EST

Since recessions affect the global world at different points in time, researchers have studied how these economic downturns relate people's health. A study published in Health Economics found that during recessions, prescriptions for mental health medications tend to rise. Contrary to this study, a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that when GDP (gross domestic product) rises, the mortality rate for older people rises as well. Now, in a more recent study, researchers examined the effects of living through a recession in mid-life. They reported that people who are negatively affected recessions are at a greater risk of cognitive decline later on in life.

During recessions, people can face lay-offs, lower pay, lower status jobs, also known as downward job mobility, and enforced part time work. In order to examine how these factors influenced cognitive function, which involves memory, verbal fluency, numeracy and temporal orientation, the research team reviewed data on 12,000 people from 11 countries. The participants were a part of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), which collected information on health, employment and social conditions in people aged 50 and above. From 2004 to 2005 and 2006 to 2007, the researchers had assessed the participants' cognitive functions. Other information that the researchers had analyzed were detail work histories collected from 2008 to 2009 and annual data on the country's GDP and its per capita fluctuations between 1959 and 2003.

From the data, the researcher separated the people into four age groups, which were 25 to 34, 35 to 44, 45 to 49 and 50 to 74. The researchers calculated that for men, the average number of recessions that they went through was 0.73 for the age group of 45-49. The team found that men who did not live through the recession in this age group had a cognitive decline of 0.07 by the time they reached the age group of 50-74. The men that experienced four or more recessions had a decline of 0.12. The average number of recessions experienced by women in the age group of 35-44 was 1.33. Women appeared to be affected by the recessions around a decade earlier than men. Women who went through recessions in their mid 20s had a cognitive decline of 0.05. For women in their mid 30s, recessions contributed to a cognitive decline of 0.17.

The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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