Economic hardship over twenty-two consecutive years of adult life and markers of early ageing: physical capability, cognitive function and inflammation

Foverskov, E., Petersen, G. L., Pedersen, J. L. M., Rod, N. H., Mortensen, E. L., Bruunsgaard, H., Lund, R.

This study assesses the associations between annual measures of economic hardship (EH) across 22 years of adulthood and objective measures of early ageing in a Danish late-middle-aged population (N = 5575). EH (years < 60% of the National median equivalized household disposable income) was experienced by 18% during 1987-2008. Four or more years in EH (reference = null years in EH) was related to poorer physical capability (chair rise: - 1.49 counts/30 s [95% confidence interval (CI) - 2.36, - 0.61], hand grip strength: - 1.22 kg [95% CI - 2.38, - 0.07], jump height: - 1.67 cm [95% CI - 2.44, - 0.91] and balance: 18% [95% CI 9, 28]), poorer cognitive function (Intelligenz-Struktur-Test: - 1.50 points [95% CI - 2.89, - 0.12]) and higher inflammatory levels (C-reactive protein: 22% [95% CI 4, 44], and Interleukin-6: 23% [95% CI 10, 39]). Comparing four EH trajectories, people with a high versus low probability of EH over time had poorer physical capability (chair rise: - 1.70 counts/30 s [95% CI - 3.38, - 0.01], grip: - 4.33 kg [95% CI - 6.50, - 2.16], jump: - 1.68 cm [95% CI - 3.12, - 0.25] and balance: 31% [95% CI 12, 52]). No associations were observed with tumour necrosis factor-α. Results were adjusted for sex, age, long-term parental unemployment/financial problems, education, baseline income and cohort. This study suggested EH for four or more years to be associated with poorer physical capability, cognitive function and increased inflammatory levels in midlife. High probability of EH across adulthood was similarly related to poorer physical capability and CRP, but not cognitive function and the remaining inflammatory markers. In conclusion, preventive initiatives focusing on reducing the burden of sustained economic hardship may lead to increased healthy ageing.

Health Condition(s): Aging/Lifespan
Year Published: 2020
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