Declining Neighborhoods - Declining Minds

Cognitive decline more common in poorer neighborhoods

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Older women are affected by the environment in which they live. New research suggests that the socioeconomic status of their neighborhoods can have an impact on their mental vitality.

A new RAND Health study finds that older women who live in low-income neighborhoods have lower cognitive function (thinking abilities) than women who live in weathier neighborhoods.

"Where you live may impact how you think."

This research also found that other factors which influence cognitive function - vascular health, health lifestyle behaviors and psychological issues such as depression - explain only part of the link between cognitive function and neighbrohood status.

Researchers survey 6,137 women from 39 locations around the United States. They participated in the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study, which was part of the Women's Health Initiative, a large-scale trial that focused on hormone therapy.

Participants were 65 years and older, had no dementia and were enrolled in the study from 1996 to 1999.

All of the women took standard cognitive assessment tests that measured such abilities as memory, reasoning, decision-making and spatial function.

The study found that women from poorer neighborhoods were significantly more likely to score poorly on these tests than women of similar age who lived in more affluent neighborhoods.

Women of color seemed to be impacted the most. A woman's income or education level did not influence these findings one way or another.

Additional study is needed to learn if neighborhood status may also affect a woman's risk of developing dementia and what interventions might be effective in reversing these trends, says study author, Regina A. Shih, the a behavioral scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

The the American Journal of Public Health published these research findings online.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 4, 2011
Last Updated:
August 7, 2011