HealthDay News — Reversing recent trends, baby boomers are showing lower cognitive functioning as they age than previous generations, according to a study published online July 29 in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B.

Hui Zheng, Ph.D., from The Ohio State University in Columbus, used data from 30,191 individuals (AGED ≥51 years) participating in the Health and Retirement Study (1996 to 2014) to assess trends in cognitive functioning.

While cognitive functioning had been improving from the Greatest Generation (born 1890 to 1923) to late children of depression and war babies (born 1931 to 1947), Zheng found significant declines in cognitive functioning among the early baby boomers and mid-baby boomers (born 1948 to 1959). Findings were consistent across genders, race/ethnicity, education groups, occupations, and income and wealth quartiles. Childhood conditions, adult education, and occupation were not tied to the worsening cognitive function among baby boomers. However, associations were present for lower household wealth, lower likelihood of marriage, higher levels of loneliness, depression and psychiatric problems, and more cardiovascular risk factors (e.g., obesity, physical inactivity, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and heart disease).

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“This decline may potentially reverse past favorable trends in dementia as baby boomers reach older ages and cognitive impairment becomes more common if no effective interventions and policy responses are in place,” Zheng writes.

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