Life Course Predictors of Later-Life Cognitive Impairment: Disentangling Educational Attainment, Labor Force Participation, and Social Engagement

Jo Mhairi Hale , University of St Andrews
Maarten J. Bijlsma, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Angelo Lorenti, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

In 2018, an estimated 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease—the incurable disease that is the most common cause of dementia and the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Like many conditions, dementia risk is influenced by a combination of social, behavioral, and biological factors. We will employ recent methodological innovations in counterfactual causal inference to disentangle social risk factors for later-life cognitive impairment. We will use data from the U.S. Health and Retirement Survey (1998-2014) to model the association between fluid cognitive function and life-course predictors, focusing on racial/ethnic disparities and interventions on educational attainment, labor force participation, and social connectedness. Using the parametric g-formula, we can interpret causal effects, adjust for intermediate confounders, and separate conditional and population-averaged effects. Through this more flexible modeling strategy, we expect to offer insights into mechanisms that create the pathway to dementia, knowledge that is critical to prevention and intervention efforts.

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 Presented in Session 6. Health & Mortality & Aging