Baby Boomers in the United States are showing a more profound cognitive decline than the generations that came before them, such as the Silent Generation, according to a new study published in the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences.
Specifically, the study – which analyzed the data of over 30,000 Americans aged 51 or above taken over the span of more than a decade – found that Boomers are experiencing significant cognitive decline in middle age and in their twilight years.
Hui Zheng, a sociologist at the Ohio State University and the lead author of the study, said, “With the aging population in the United States, we were already likely to see an increase in the number of people with dementia. But this study suggests it may be worse than we expected for decades to come.”
The authors of the study described its findings as “clear and alarming.” They noted that cognitive decline is a cause for concern as it can sometimes be an early warning sign of dementia and other mental illnesses.
“Baby boomers already start having lower cognition scores than earlier generations at age 50 to 54,” Zheng said the study found.
It should be noted that the study only looked at early Baby Boomers, as there wasn’t enough data to compare older Boomers with other generations. However, Zheng said he expects the story to be similar for older Boomers as well.
What’s Behind This Trend?
You may be scratching your head trying to figure out what could be driving this trend, especially as Boomers are often seen as having lived healthier lives than some other generations, particularly younger ones.
“If it weren’t for their better childhood health, more favorable likelihood of having a white-collar occupation, Baby Boomers would have even worse cognitive functioning,” Zheng pointed out.
There’s no definitive answer, but a few possibilities may have contributed to Boomers experiencing more pronounced cognitive decline at an earlier age.
According to the researchers, potential factors that have contributed to Boomers experiencing more cognitive decline than earlier generations include lower household wealth, loneliness and depression, and a lower likelihood of marriage.
Cardiovascular risk factors that are linked to cognitive issues, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, are more prevalent in Boomers – and this is another potential explanation for the trend. However, it’s by no means the only factor.
A Quick Summary
- Boomers in the US are experiencing a more profound cognitive decline than older generations did when they were the same age, according to a fresh study.
- The study looked at data related to over 30,000 men and women aged 51 and over.
- Its authors described its findings as “clear and alarming.” They said it’s likely Boomers would have even worse cognitive functioning had they not led generally healthy lifestyles when they were younger.
- Although the study only looked at data for younger Boomers, researchers said they expect older Boomers to also fit this trend.
- Many factors potentially contributed to Boomers having worse cognitive function than older generations (when they were the same age.)
- These include things like higher levels of depression and loneliness among Boomers, and lower household wealth, in addition to risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure.