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Researchers find a link between cognitive health and financial instability in Black Americans

Researchers find a link between cognitive health and financial instability in Black Americans
Predicted age pattern of cognitive function for debt groups across different types of debt. Credit: The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences (2024). DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbae014

A new study found that Black Americans trail white Americans when it comes to financial stability in midlife, which may impact brain health in old age.

Having—or lacking—, especially for older Black Americans, can significantly impact health and cognitive function, according to a new study led by Chioun Lee, a University of California, Riverside associate professor of sociology.

The study, "Racial Disparities in Cognitive Health Among Older Americans: The Role of Debt–Asset Profiles During Preretirement Age" was published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

Researchers found that Black Americans disproportionately lack low-cost debt, meaning debt that can potentially improve one's life, such as buying a house. According to the findings, not having enough low-cost debt may constrain Black Americans' ability to accumulate wealth throughout their lives and across generations.

Essentially, having few or no assets in midlife, which is more prevalent among Black Americans, is linked to lower cognitive function. This is possibly because can translate into less access to high quality medical care and reduced quality of life.

The study's conclusions were reached through analyzing 22 years of follow-up data collected by the Health and Retirement Study, a database led by the University of Michigan and supported by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration.

Lee and her co-authors, Dana A. Glei from the Center for Population and Health at Georgetown University, and Soojin Park, from UC Riverside's School of Education, focused on a sample of more than 7,900 older Americans from the Health and Retirement Study.

"As a sociologist, the one thing I want to highlight is that there is some misconception that all debt is bad. It's not always the case," Lee said. "While less debt can be seen as a positive thing, it also means a diminished possibility of borrowing large amounts of money at low interest rates. Over time, over generations, this situation compounds. It takes generations for Blacks and other minorities to catch up."

The researchers discuss how institutional and structural racism shapes Black–white disparities in –asset profiles, such as limited access to borrowing opportunities.

"Racial minorities develop cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (AD/ADRD) at younger ages and experience more burdens for longer than their white counterparts, highlighting the urgent need for public policies that delay AD/ADRD for racial minorities," the authors wrote.

More information: Chioun Lee et al, Racial Disparities in Cognitive Health Among Older Americans: The Role of Debt–Asset Profiles During Preretirement Age, The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences (2024). DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbae014

Citation: Researchers find a link between cognitive health and financial instability in Black Americans (2024, May 23) retrieved 23 July 2024 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2024-05-link-cognitive-health-financial-instability.html
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