In the last few decades, people over 50 years old have been experienced significant improvements in their cognition. Scores were rising in the “greatest generation” between 1890 and 1923 and the “war babies” between 1942 and 1947.
Nevertheless, a new report suggests that the trend might start to move reversely in baby boomers, who were born between 1948 and 1959.
The study was published in the Journals of Gerontology: Series B.
In general, baby boomers have lower scores in their cognitive tests than war babies.
Many scientists are surprised by this decline in cognitive functions. They even caution that it would be even worse than we thought in the coming decades.
The research inspected data from more than 30,000 people over 51 years old in the United States. Data were collected from a survey by the University of Michigan conducted every two years.
Each participant had to take cognition tests, which included different tasks like remembering a group of words, counting down a list of numbers, and naming objects.
Results show that baby boomers have lower cognitive scores than early generations.
The most surprising finding is that this trend is reported in all groups, regardless of wealth levels, income, education, ethnicities, races, as well as gender.
In certain other studies on baby boomers, the illness and mortality rates are lower in wealthy and highly educated people. However, this is not the case with cognitive functions.
The trend is clearer in those between 50 and 60 years old. Scientists are worried that it would increase the risk of dementia.
The decline is not caused by poor childhood conditions because baby boomers’ families tend to have higher socioeconomic status than those of previous generations. They also have better jobs and higher education levels.
Scientists think that this link is more associated with adulthood conditions. Some possible risk factors include less wealth, being physically inactive, loneliness and depression, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cardiovascular issues, psychiatric problems, and multiple marriages.
To some degree, the research indicates that decreased cognitive functioning might be associated with certain parts of modern life, such as fewer connections to friends and economic inequality.
Another possible reason might be life in the United States. There is a lack of universal health care and the cost can be high for many people. All of these factors might contribute to an overall decline in the cognitive functions of baby boomers.