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Study: Low-wage workers more likely to develop dementia

The study found that sustained low pay is associated with "significantly faster" memory decline.

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By Stephen Beech via SWNS

Workers on low wages for most of their lives are more likely to develop dementia, according to new research.

The low-paid age cognitively by 11 years for every 10 years in their better-paid peers.

The study found that sustained low pay is associated with "significantly faster" memory decline.

While low-wage jobs have been associated with health issues such as depressive symptoms, obesity, and high blood pressure, which are risk factors for cognitive aging, until now no study had examined the specific relationship between low wages and brain function in later life.

Study first author Dr. Katrina Kezios said: “Our research provides new evidence that sustained exposure to low wages during peak earning years is associated with accelerated memory decline later in life.

“This association was observed in our primary sample as well as in a validation cohort.”

Using records from the national Health and Retirement Study (HRS) of adults for the years 1992 to 2016, the research team analyzed data from 2,879 people born between 1936 and 1941.

Low-wage was defined as an hourly wage lower than two-thirds of the federal median wage for the corresponding year.

Dr. Kezios and her colleagues categorized the participants’ history of low wages into those who never earned low wages, intermittently earned low wages, or always earned low wages based on pay earned from 1992 to 2004 and then examined the relationship with memory decline over the next 12 years from 2004 to 2016.

The researchers found that, compared with workers never on low wages, sustained low-wage earners experienced "significantly faster" memory decline in older age.

Dr. Kezio, of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said: "They experienced approximately one excess year of cognitive aging per a 10-year period.

"In other words, the level of cognitive aging experienced over a 10-year period by sustained low-wage earners would be what those who never earned low wages experienced in 11 years."

Study senior author Dr. Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, Assistant Professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School, said: “Our findings suggest that social policies that enhance the financial well-being of low-wage workers may be especially beneficial for cognitive health."

She added: “Future work should rigorously examine the number of dementia cases and excess years of cognitive aging that could be prevented under different hypothetical scenarios that would increase the minimum hourly wage.”

The findings were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology and were also reported at the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in San Diego.

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