The size of the family can affect cognitive functioning in later life

Summary: Having three or more children is associated with a later risk of cognitive decline.

A source: Columbia University

A new study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Robert Butler’s Columbia Aging Center and the University of Paris-Dauphin found that having three or more children against two children has a negative impact on late life cognition.

The results further showed that this effect is stronger in Northern Europe, where fertility reduces financial resources but does not improve social resources in the region. This is the first to study the causal effects of recent cognition on higher fertility.

To date, little attention has been paid to fertility as a potential predictor of late cognition compared to other factors such as education or occupation.

The results were published in the journal Demography.

“Understanding the factors that contribute to optimal cognition in evening life is critical to successful aging at the individual and social levels, especially in Europe, where families are shrinking and populations are aging rapidly,” said Vegard Skirbeck, Ph.D., a resident of Columbia Mailman School. and Professor of Family Health.

“For individuals, cognitive health in late life is critical to maintaining independence and social activism and productivity in later life. For societies, ensuring the cognitive health of the elderly is critical to prolonging working life and reducing health and care needs.” says Eric Bonsang, Ph.D., professor of economics at the University of Paris-Dauphiné.

Researchers analyzed data from the European Health, Aging and Retirement Survey (SHARE) to study the impact of having three or more children and having two children on late life cognition.

SHARE studies sample older populations in 20 European countries and Israel, including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain. , Sweden and Switzerland. Participants were over 65 years of age with at least two biological children.

Based on advanced econometric methods capable of distinguishing causal relationships from simple associations, the evidence suggests that having three or more children and having two children is associated with poor cognition in later life. They also found that this effect was similar in both men and women.

Birth can affect cognition of late life in several ways. First, having children often requires significant financial outlay, reduces family income, and increases the likelihood of falling below the poverty line, thus reducing the additional standard of living for all family members and possibly creating financial anxiety and uncertainty that can contribute to cognitive impairment. . .

Second, having additional children is due to lower women’s participation in the labor market, fewer working hours, and lower incomes. In turn, participation in labor has a positive effect on the cognitive functioning of men and women compared to retirement.

Third, having children reduces the risk of social isolation in older people, which is a major risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia, and increases the level of social interaction and support that often protects against cognitive decline in old age.

Finally, having children can be stressful, can lead to unhealthy behaviors, and can negatively affect an adult’s cognitive development. Parents with more children are more stressed, have less time to rest, and spend more time on cognitive stimulation. This can lead to parental sleep disturbances.

“Having three or more children has little effect on cognitive function, which is equivalent to 6.2 years of age,” Bonsang said. He suggests that a reduction in the proportion of Europeans with three or more children could have a positive effect on the cognitive health of the elderly population.

“Given the magnitude of the impact, future cognitive research should also examine fertility as a prognostic factor, along with well-studied predictions such as education, professional experience, physical activity, mental and physical health,” Skirbeck said.

“In addition, future research should look at the potential impact of infertility or having one child on later life. There is also a need for more information on the types of interactions, support and conflicts between parents and children, which can affect cognitive outcomes. ”

Learn about this research news

Author: Press service
A source: Columbia University
The connection: Press Service – Columbia University
Photo: Image in public domain

Original study: Open access.
“Does having a child affect your cognitive health in the next life? Eric Bonsang et al., Evidence From an Instrumental Variable Approach. Demography


Abstract

See also

Does having children affect cognitive health in the next life? Evidence for an instrumental variable approach

Cognitive decline is a common concern as the population ages. However, the aging of the population is partly due to lower birth rates and the size of the family can affect cognitive functioning in later life. Previous research has shown that birth history is associated with late life recognition, but it remains unclear whether this connection is causal or not.

We use the instrumental variable approach and data from the European Health, Aging and Retirement Survey to determine whether having three or more children and having two children affects the perception of late life.

Parents often want to have at least one son and one daughter. Thus, we use the sex composition of the first two children as a source of exogenous variation in the probability of having three or more children.

The results show that having three or more children has a negative impact on late life. This effect is strongest in Northern Europe, where high birth rates reduce financial resources, but do not improve social resources in the region.

Future research should examine mediation mechanisms to consider the potential impact of infertility or having one child on recent cognition.

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