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Social Mobility: Climbing The Social Ladder May Help You Ward Off Dementia

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Posted on May 28, 2024, 4 p.m.

Good news for hard-working social butterflies! Recent research published in JAMA Network Open suggests that upward social mobility, like climbing the social ladder, may help to ward off dementia. The word dementia represents conditions that are marked by memory loss and reductions in cognitive functioning that add strain to healthcare systems and devastate the quality of life for those affected by it as well as their families. Research has found correlations between socioeconomic status (SES), parental assets, income, education, and work status to susceptibility to dementia, and changes to SES throughout life, known as social mobility, appear to influence this risk. 

In this study, the researchers provide data-backed evidence suggesting that upward social mobility is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia. They specifically showed that a downward SES transition was associated with the highest loss of healthy longevity from the age of 75 and onward in their lifetime, while an upward transition was linked with the longest period of healthy longevity. To add to this, the results from an upward transition are even more favorable than those seen among those with a stable high SES since childhood. 

"Thanks to a large and robust dataset, our findings solidify the association between socioeconomic mobility and dementia risk," the study's lead author Ryoto Sakaniwa says. "Our finding that upward social mobility throughout a person's life correlates with a prolonged period of dementia-free aging means that improving socioeconomic conditions could be a key to dementia prevention and healthier longevity."

For this study, data was utilized from the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study, following 9,186 participants aged 65+ from 2010 to 2016. Using unsupervised clustering analysis and data-driven classification to analyze changes in participants' SES throughout their lives the researchers identified six distinct SES transition patterns. Then a national registry of long-term nursing care services was accessed to determine dementia incidence, enabling a detailed examination of the relationship between these transitions and the risk of dementia.

According to the researchers, the analysis revealed that upward SES transitions were associated with a notably lower risk of dementia incidence compared with stable SES patterns, and downward SES transitions had a significantly increased risk.

Mediating effects of comorbidities, social factors, and lifestyle behaviors were also examined on the association of SES transitions and the risk of dementia, and they were found to play significant roles in mediating the risk. This was found to be more distinct among physical characteristics and lifestyle behaviors in upward transitions and social factors in downward transitions.

"Future research should delve deeper into the mechanisms by which SES influences cognitive health, including potential interventions for mitigating dementia risk," senior author Hiroyasu Iso says." Understanding the nuances of how SES and its transitions impact dementia is vital for developing targeted strategies addressing underlying socioeconomic factors throughout one's life.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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