Widowhood Status and Cognitive Function in Community-Dwelling Older Adults from the Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS)

Abstract

We aimed to determine the association between the duration of widowhood and cognition decline. We compared the decline observed in widowed people compared with married, single, or separated persons using the scores obtained in the cognitive assessment of memory, learning, and visual exploration by adults and older adults in Mexico. The Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS) provides the base for this paper. This study is an analysis of the fourth data wave (2015), except for the independent variable: marital status. Marital status was built longitudinally with information from the four surveys (2001, 2003, 2012, and 2015). The sample comprised 6898 adults aged 50 and over. Cognition was assessed with an adapted Cross-Cultural Cognitive Examination (CCCE). Confounders include sociodemographic characteristics (sex, age, schooling, self-perception of economic status, and whether the individual worked or not), multimorbidity, functionality, support networks, and psychological characteristics. Of the total sample, 4094 (59.3%) were women. The mean age was 70.86 years (SD = 7.4). The baseline of the study is 2001. In 2001, 8.7% (n = 600) were widows or widowers. People widowed by 2001 scored −0.158 points in cognition while divorced participants scored - 0.095 points.

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Acknowledgments

The MHAS (Mexican Health and Aging Study) is partly sponsored by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging (grant number NIH R01AG018016) in the United States and the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI) in Mexico. Data files and documentation are of public use and available at www.MHASweb.org.

Funding

The Mexican Health and Aging Study was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging (R01AG018016, R Wong, PI).

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All authors gave final approval of the version to be published and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work were appropriately investigated and resolved.

Conceptualization: MBG and CGP.

Methodology: MBG, RRA, MLO, SSG, CGP.

Validation: RRA, CGP.

Formal Analysis: MBG, RRA.

Data Curation: MBG, RRA.

Writing – Original Draft Preparation: MBG, RRA, MLO, SSG, CGP.

Writing – Review & Editing: MBG, RRA, MLO, SSG, CGP.

Supervision: CGP.

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Correspondence to Carmen García-Peña.

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Barragán-García, M., Ramírez-Aldana, R., López-Ortega, M. et al. Widowhood Status and Cognitive Function in Community-Dwelling Older Adults from the Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS). Population Ageing (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12062-020-09322-2

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Keywords

  • Widowhood
  • Cognition
  • Civil status