Investigating Life Course Pathways to Sex Differences in Later-Life Cognitive Health Among Older Adults in Rural South Africa

Collin Payne , Australian National University
Lindsay Kobayashi, Harvard University

We aimed to investigate the drivers of sex-based differentials in later-life cognitive functioning using data from the Health and Aging in Africa: A Longitudinal Study of an INDEPTH Community in South Africa (HAALSI) cohort of older men and women living in rural South Africa. We find that that controlling for formal schooling greatly diminishes the sex gap in cognitive well-being among individuals who have received some schooling. However, a sizable sex gap persists among older adults in the HAALSI sample who received no formal schooling. We explore a number of potential factors that could explain why not receiving schooling would be worse for women than men in terms of cognitive outcomes. Our results suggest that differential sex patterns of widowhood in later life, childhood economic conditions, and women’s more rapid decline in physical functioning with age are all strongly related to the female-male gap in cognition in later life.

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 Presented in Session 117. Gender Disparities in Later Life in Developing Countries