Childhood living conditions, socioeconomic position in adulthood, and cognition in later life: exploring the associations

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2009 Nov;64(6):750-7. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbp029. Epub 2009 May 6.


Objectives: This study examined the association between childhood living conditions, socioeconomic position in adulthood, and cognition in later life. Two questions were addressed: Is there an association between childhood living conditions and late-life cognition, and if so, is the association modified or mediated by adult socioeconomic position?

Methods: Nationally representative data of the Swedish population aged 77 years and older were obtained from the 1992 and 2002 Swedish Panel Study of Living Conditions of the Oldest Old (SWEOLD). Cognition was assessed with an abbreviated version of the Mini-Mental State Examination scale. Childhood living conditions were assessed by self-reports of childhood living conditions.

Results: The results showed independent associations between conflicts in the household during childhood, father's social class, education, own social class in adulthood, and cognition in later life. Exposure to conflicts during childhood, having a father classified as a manual worker, low education, and/or being classified as a manual worker in adulthood was associated with lower levels of cognition in old age. There seemed to be no modifying effect of adult socioeconomic position on the association between childhood conditions and cognition in later life.

Discussion: This suggests the importance of childhood living conditions in maintaining cognitive function even in late life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Career Choice*
  • Child
  • Cognition*
  • Educational Status
  • Family Conflict / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychometrics
  • Psychosocial Deprivation
  • Social Class
  • Social Environment*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Sweden
  • Young Adult