Childhood Poverty Can Affect Cognitive Skills in Old Age

Adverse childhood socioeconomic position linked to lower level of cognitive performance in older age

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 26, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Variation in childhood socioeconomic position (SEP) partially accounts for cognitive performance in older age, with adverse childhood SEP associated with lower level of baseline cognitive performance, according to a study published online Sept. 26 in Neurology.

Pavla Cermakova, M.D., Ph.D., from the National Institute of Mental Health in Klecany, Czech Republic, and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study of individuals enrolled in a multicenter, population-based study to examine whether SEP in childhood has an effect on the level of cognitive performance and rate of cognitive decline in older adults. Interviews were conducted in six waves at approximately two-year intervals and included cognitive performance examinations and measurements of childhood SEP.

Data were included for 20,244 participants (median age at baseline, 71 years) from 16 European countries. The researchers observed a correlation for adverse childhood SEP with lower level of baseline cognitive performance. After adjustment for clinical and social risk factors, the correlation was attenuated but remained statistically significant. There was no correlation noted for childhood SEP with the rate of cognitive decline.

"Variation in childhood SEP helps to explain differences in cognitive performance between older people, but not the rate of decline from their previous level of cognition," the authors write. "Strategies to protect cognitive aging should be applied early in life."

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