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Childhood adversity and adulthood adversity affect cognition later in life. However, the mechanism through which adversity exerts these effects on cognition remains under-researched. We aimed to investigate if the effect of adversity on cognition was mediated by distress or neuroticism. The UK Biobank is a large, population-based, cohort study designed to investigate risk factors of cognitive health. Here, data were analysed using a cross-sectional design. Structural equation models were fitted to the data with childhood adversity or adulthood adversity as independent variables, distress and neuroticism as mediators and executive function and processing speed as latent dependent variables that were derived from the cognitive scores in the UK Biobank. Complete data were available for 64,051 participants in the childhood adversity model and 63,360 participants in the adulthood adversity model. Childhood adversity did not show a direct effect on processing speed. The effect of childhood adversity on executive function was partially mediated by distress and neuroticism. The effects of adulthood adversity on executive function and processing speed were both partially mediated by distress and neuroticism. In conclusion, distress and neuroticism mediated the deleterious effect of childhood and adulthood adversity on cognition and may provide a mechanism underlying the deleterious consequences of adversity.

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Humans, Neuroticism, Cohort Studies, Cross-Sectional Studies, Biological Specimen Banks, UK Biobank, Cognition