DOI: 10.1002/alz.080291 ISSN: 1552-5260

An exploration of the relationship between financial hardship and cognitive functioning in later life

Gillian L. Marshall, Kim Stansbury
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology



There is a connection between stress and negative health outcomes including cognitive impairment. Few studies have examined the relationship between perceived financial hardship as a secondary stressor and cognitive function. This study aimed to test four indicators of perceived financial hardship and the impact on cognitive function among older adults.


Using data from four waves of the Health and Retirement Study of persons 65 years and older, we analyzed (N = 6612) across waves 1 and 2 using generalized linear regressions. There were four financial hardship variables (difficulty paying bills, food insecurity, taking less medication due to cost and ongoing financial strain). Cognitive status was conceptualized as a composite variable of episodic memory and mental status.


Results suggests that all four financial hardships were associated with lower mental status scores with food insecurity having the strongest association of the four indicators.


These findings highlight the negative effects of stress in later life. Even secondary stressors such as financial hardships do in fact tax the mental status of older persons. There are higher risks for cognitive impairments in older adults with financial hardships than those without financial hardships This study underlines the importance of interventions to reduce stress while also creating greater access to food and medications specifically.

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