Persistently low wages are associated with significantly faster memory decline later in life, a new US scientific study shows, the first to make such a correlation.
The researchers from the School of Public Health at Columbia University, New York, led by Dr. Katrina Kezios of the Department of Epidemiology, who made the relevant publication in the American Journal of Epidemiology, as well as a similar announcement at an international conference on Alzheimer's disease (2022 Alzheimer's Association International Conference), analyzed data on 2.879 people born between 1936-1941.
A daily wage was considered low when it was below two-thirds of the national average daily wage in a given year. Participants were divided into three groups based on their wage history: those who had never earned low wages, those who had earned such wages intermittently, and those who had been permanently low wages between 1992-2004. Their memory status was then assessed over the next 12 years (2004-2016).
It found that, compared to those who had never earned low wages, the chronically low-wage earners showed a much faster rate of memory decline in old age. Roughly, they experienced one extra year of cognitive aging for every ten years of low wages. In other words, a low-wage earner for a decade showed after ten years the memory that a high-wage earner would have after 11 years.
In the past, low-paid jobs have been associated with various health problems, such as symptoms of depression, obesity, hypertension, etc., all of which are, among other things, risk factors for premature cognitive aging. The new study for the first time specifically correlates persistently low wages over the working life with later cognitive function.
"Our research provides new evidence that a person's continued exposure to low wages, especially during the peak of their working life, is associated with accelerated memory decline later in life," said Dr Kezios. The researchers estimate that increasing the minimum wage will also have a positive impact on people's cognitive health.