Baby Boomers Showing Worse Cognitive Decline Than Previous Generations
According to a new study, baby boomers are showing worse cognitive decline than previous generations, with decline showing in people as young as 50.
The study looked at more than 30,000 people aged 50 and over in the US, and analysed their average cognition scores to find their results.
The different generations were broken down into different groups: the greatest generation (born 1890 to 1923); the ‘early children of depression (born 1924 to 1930); the late children of depression (born 1931 to 1941); the war babies (born 1942 to 1947); the early-baby boomers (born 1948 to 1953); and the mid-baby boomers (born 1954 to 1959).
The findings initially showed that cognitive function improved from generation to generation, but it began to slip with baby boomers and continued to decline in mid-baby boomers. The decline was not dependent on peoples’ race, ethnicity, education level or financial wealth – it was seen across all groups.
Study author Hui Zheng, professor of sociology at Ohio State University, said:
It is shocking to see this decline in cognitive functioning among baby boomers after generations of increases in test scores.
But what was most surprising to me is that this decline is seen in all groups: men and women, across all races and ethnicities and across all education, income and wealth levels.
The data came from people who took part in the 1996 to 2014 Health and Retirement Survey, which was conducted by the University of Michigan. The 30,191 participants were surveyed every two years.
As part of the study, participants completed a cognitive test where they had to recall words they had heard earlier, count down from 100 by sevens, name objects they were shown and perform other tasks; something US president Trump recently undertook himself.
From the data collected, Zheng compared cognition scores within each age group across generations baring in mind that people’s cognitive function naturally declines with age. Even when taking this into account, he found baby boomers still came out the worst. Zheng said, ‘Baby boomers already start having lower cognition scores than earlier generations at age 50 to 54.’
While wealth didn’t play a major part in a person’s cognitive function, Zheng did conclude that low wealth along with higher levels of loneliness, depression, inactivity and obesity, and less likelihood of being married was linked with lower cognitive function in baby boomers.
Living without a spouse, being married more than once in their lives, having psychiatric problems and cardiovascular risk factors including strokes, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes were also associated with lower cognitive functioning among people in this generation.
While it isn’t looking great for baby boomers, Zheng concluded it could have been worse if it wasn’t for their ‘better childhood health, more favourable family background, more years of education and higher likelihood of having a white-collar occupation.’
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