Cohort Effects on Cognitive and Physical Functioning in Europe - Data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE)

Martina Otavova , University of Southern Denmark
Linda Ahrenfeldt, Linda Ahrenfeldt
Silvia Rizzi, Interdisciplinary Centre on Population Dynamics, University of Southern Denmark
Maarten Wensink
Rune Lindahl-Jacobsen, Max Planck Odense Center on the Biodemography of Aging

Our objective was to investigate cohort effects on changes in cognitive and physical functioning in European population. We hypothesized that younger elderly (individuals aged 50 – 79 years) with a given health status who previously would have died of complications linked to their condition are now, due to improved healthcare, kept alive to ages of a higher selection pressure (i.e. age 80+) where they then die. In this scenario, we would expect to observe compression of morbidity in the older elderly and failure of success in the younger elderly. We utilized data from the SHARE of 113,229 individuals aged 50+ who participated in the survey between the years 2004 and 2013. Linear mixed models and generalized linear models were applied to examine cognitive composite score, maximal grip strength, activities of daily living (ADL) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) to evaluate cognitive and physical functioning. Analyzing cognitive composite score and grip strength, we found significant cohort effects in age-associated trajectories with consistent significant differences between the earliest born cohorts (1900-1955) and the most recent cohorts (1956-1965), suggesting that the earlier born cohorts have faster cognitive and physical decline than the later born cohorts. Similar findings were shown analyzing ADL and IADL, however, without a consistent significance. Overall, cohort effects have a strong influence on cognitive and physical functioning among Europeans. Our findings do not support our initial hypothesis of morbidity expansion among the younger elderly, they, however, support the “success-of-success” theory, with more individuals living longer, in better health.

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 Presented in Session 91. Influences on Cognitive Function in Later Life