This is your brain after a recession

By Laura Mize • Published: February 19th, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Money stress can take a toll on your health.

Now, a new study shows some money woes may affect how well your brain functions, too. Researchers writing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health analyzed data from a long-term survey project involving people from several European nations.

They found those who had endured economic recessions in early-to-mid adulthood scored worse than their peers on brain function tests taken between ages 50 and 74.

The assessments included simple questions testing math skills, verbal ability and memory.

Interestingly, women were susceptible to more health woes after experiencing recessions between ages 25 and 44, but men were vulnerable at different ages: from 45 to 49.

In their report, the authors wrote that they believe the correlation between recessions and poorer cognitive function later in life may be due to changes in jobs and working conditions. They cited previous research that has shown a link between labor issues and mental abilities. Since recessions have wide-reaching effects on jobs, it makes sense that they also may be statistically linked to cognitive troubles.

What could be behind the link? One possibility is cognitive reserve, a term the study authors used often. Cognitive reserve is the theory that people with certain life characteristics can better stave off cognitive decline as they age or face disease. These characteristics include things such as positive work experiences, education, leisure activities and high intelligence. Cognitive reserve is a complex idea, but there may be something to it.

During a recession, leisure activities, education and personally fulfilling employment take a back seat to paying the bills. Perhaps this high level of stress has more of an effect on our brains than we ever imagined.