Acceleration of aging and worsening physical and cognitive health common in elderly people with lower socioeconomic status

New research published at the University College London examined how elderly people with lower socioeconomic status exhibit a more severe decline in age-related functions, including physical and cognitive dysfunction, compared to those with higher socioeconomic status.

The findings, released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, originated in 2004 when British researchers assessed the data of more than 5,000 participants aged 52 and over. In the data, physical and medical information was gathered to identify cognitive levels.

“The extent to which lower SES is associated with faster decline in age-related functions and phenotypes independently of health conditions is less clear,” the co-authors explained in the findings.

“This study demonstrates that lower SES (defined by wealth) is related to accelerated decline over 6 to 8 y in 16 outcomes from physical, sensory, physiological, cognitive, emotional, and social domains, independently of diagnosed health conditions, self-rated health, education, and other factors.”

According to the research group at the University College London, their findings demonstrate how people living at the lower end of the economic spectrum experience worsening age-related functioning once they reach late-adulthood (aged 65 and over).

Lost of grip strength, lung function, processing speed, and cognitive functions are all factors which go through a declining stage and worsen among those with lower socioeconomic status, researchers noted.

“Our results indicate that lower SES is related to acceleration of a broad range of age-related impairments independently of diagnosed health conditions or self-rated health. It is striking that these associations were observed across six domains of physical, mental, and social function that typically deteriorate with age,” the co-authors concluded in their findings.

“Associations were independent of age, gender, ethnicity, educational attainment, and childhood SES as well as reported illness status.”

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