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AbstractINTRODUCTIONEarlier studies of the effects of childhood socioeconomic status (SES) on later life cognitive function consistently report a social gradient in later life cognitive function. Evidence for their effects on cognitive decline is, however, less clear.METHODSThe sample consists of 5,324 participants in the Whitehall II Study, 8,572 in the Health and Retirement Study, and 1,413 in the Kame Project, who completed self-report questionnaires on their early-life experiences and underwent repeated cognitive assessments. We characterised cognitive trajectories using latent class mixed models, and explored associations between childhood SES and latent class membership using logistic regressions.RESULTSWe identified distinct trajectories classes for all cognitive measures examined. Childhood socioeconomic deprivation was associated with an increased likelihood of being in a lower trajectory class.DISCUSSIONOur findings support the notions that cognitive ageing is a heterogeneous process and early-life circumstances may have lasting effects on cognition across the life-course.Research in contextSystematic review: We reviewed the literature on childhood socioeconomic status (SES) as a predictor for cognitive decline in mid- to later-life using PubMed. Studies generally reported lower childhood SES is associated with poorer baseline cognition, but not a faster rate of decline. These studies generally focused on the mean rate of decline in the population; no study to date has explored associations between childhood SES and different cognitive trajectories. Relevant studies have been appropriately cited.Interpretation: Our findings suggest that cognitive trajectories differ between individuals and across cognitive domains. Individuals of lower childhood SES were more likely to be in a lower cognitive trajectory class, which may or may not involve more rapid decline.Future directions: Future studies should include more cognitive outcomes and longer follow-ups, as well as investigate the impact of social mobility to further improve our understanding on how early-life circumstances influence cognitive decline.

Original publication




Journal article


Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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