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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Negative Wealth Shock and Cognitive Decline and Dementia in Middle-Aged and Older US Adults

Pan, L., Gao, B., Zhu, J., & Guo, J. (2023).
JAMA network open, 6(12), e2349258.

Key Points


Is an experience of negative wealth shock—a loss of 75% or more in total wealth over a 2-year period—associated with cognitive decline and dementia risks among middle-aged and older US adults?


In this cohort study of 8082 participants, those with negative wealth shock had faster decline in cognition and elevated risks of dementia when compared with those who had positive wealth without shock.


These findings suggest that negative wealth shock is a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia in middle-aged and older adults.

The research is linked above.

Key findings:
  • Negative wealth shock, defined as losing 75% or more of total wealth within two years, was associated with accelerated cognitive decline and higher risks of dementia.
  • This association was stronger for younger participants (under 65) and white participants compared to older and non-white participants.
While the study offers valuable insights, it also has limitations:
  • The study is observational, not causal, so it cannot prove cause and effect.
  • Wealth changes after negative wealth shock were not considered, potentially impacting results.
Overall, the study suggests that negative wealth shock may be a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia, highlighting the potential impacts of financial hardship on brain health. Further research is needed to confirm these findings and explore underlying mechanisms.

Additional points:
  • The study used data from the Health and Retirement Study, which tracked over 8,000 participants for 14 years.
  • Participants with negative wealth shock had a 27% higher risk of developing dementia compared to those without wealth shock.
The study suggests potential social and psychological mechanisms linking financial hardship to cognitive decline, such as stress, depression, and reduced access to healthcare.