Objective Workers approaching retirement may be particularly vulnerable to economic downturns. This study assesses whether exposure to economic downturns around retirement age leads to poorer cognitive function in later life. Method Longitudinal data for 13,577 individuals in the Health and Retirement Study were linked to unemployment rates in state of residence. Random-and fixed-effect models were used to examine whether downturns at 55-64 years of age were associated with cognitive functioning levels and decline at ≥65 years, measured by the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised. Results Longer exposure to downturns at 55-64 years of age was associated with lower levels of cognitive function at ≥65 years. Compared to individuals experiencing only up to 1 year in a downturn at 55-64 years of age, individuals experiencing two downturns at these ages had 0.09 point (95% Confidence Interval [CI,-0.17,-0.02]) lower cognitive functioning scores at ≥65 years (3 years: b =-0.17, 95%CI [-0.29,-0.06]; 4 years: b =-0.14, 95%CI [-0.25,-0.02]; ≥5 years: b =-0.22, 95%CI [-0.38,-0.06]). Downturns at 55-64 years of age were not associated with rates of cognitive decline. Discussion Exposure to downturns around retirement is associated with a long-lasting decline in cognitive function in later life. Policies mitigating the impact of downturns on older workers may help to maintain cognitive function in later life.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Cognition, Economic, Life course, Recession, Social
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbx035, hdl.handle.net/1765/108116
Journal Journals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Citation
Hessel, P, Riumallo-Herl, C.J. (Carlos J.), Leist, A.K, Berkman, L.F, & Avendano Pabon, M. (2018). Economic Downturns, Retirement and Long-Term Cognitive Function among Older Americans. Journals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 73(4), 744–754. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbx035