Dementia Mortality, Economic Insecurity, and Social Welfare Spending (1979-2014)

Jo Mhairi Hale , University of St Andrews

Economic downturns appear to be good for health at the population level. This counterintuitive finding has precipitated calls to consider the impact of economic crises on vulnerable populations. Dementia afflicts 47.5 million people worldwide (World Health Organization, 2016), and population aging means it is an ever-growing group. But, research on social predictors of dementia mortality remains sparse. I hypothesize that elders with dementia may be particularly vulnerable to macroeconomic shock. Using mortality data from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (1979-2014), I estimate the association between the age-adjusted dementia mortality rate and gross state product, the unemployment rate, and the Economic Security Index. I test whether state-level Medicaid/Medicare funding for eldercare mediates these associations (1999-2008). I find that dementia mortality is significantly related to economic insecurity, but not the unemployment rate or gross state product. State-years that cut eldercare spending streams relative to their spending trends experience significantly higher dementia mortality rates compared to state-years with greater spending increases. Further research on mechanisms linking crises with dementia mortality is key to developing interventions, as post-recession austerity measures do appear to negatively impact this vulnerable population.

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 Presented in Session 47. Linking Policies, Health and Mortality