Life Course Socioeconomic Position and Mid-Late Life Cognitive Function in Eastern Europe

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Abstract

Objectives.

To investigate whether the positive relation between socioeconomic position (SEP) across the life course and later life cognitive function observed in Western populations exists in former communist countries with apparently smaller income inequalities.

Method.

Structural equation modeling analysis of cross-sectional data on 30,846 participants aged 45–78 years in four Central and Eastern European centers: Novosibirsk (Russia), Krakow (Poland), Kaunas (Lithuania), and six Czech towns from the HAPIEE (Health, Alcohol, and Psychosocial factors In Eastern Europe) study. SEP was measured using self-reported childhood (maternal education, household amenities), adult (education), and older adult (current material circumstances) indicators. Latent variable for cognition was constructed from word recall, animal naming, and letter search.

Results.

Associations between SEP measures over the life course and cognition were similar across study centers. Education had the strongest direct association with cognition, followed by current material circumstances. Indirect path from education to cognition, mediated by current SEP, was small. Direct path from mother’s education to cognition was significant but modest, and partially mediated by later SEP measures, particularly education.

Discussion.

In these Eastern European populations, late life cognition reflected life course socioeconomic trajectories similarly to findings in Western countries.

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