In recent years, the United States has seen an overall decline in dementia. Unfortunately, new studies suggest that the country may see a significant reversal in that trend as the Baby Boomer generation ages. One particular study published in the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences found that cognitive functioning test scores showed Baby Boomers were at higher risk for dementia than previous generations.
Cognitive decline trending up for Boomers
Research shows cognition scores increased for those born between 1890 (Greatest Generation) and 1942 (early Boomers). However, those scores declined for individuals born between 1948 and 1953. And they deteriorated further in those born between 1954 and 1959.
It’s notable that these results cut across all groups in the 30,191-person survey conducted from 1996 to 2014. Previous research has shown that wealthier individuals were less likely to show cognitive decline. But this latest analysis found that dementia risk was present at all levels of education, income, and wealth. Lifestyle factors such as loneliness, depression, obesity, inactivity and a lower likelihood of being married seemed to be the most critical.
Dementia Risk for Baby Boomers is a Modern Problem
These are troubling trends. They suggest the U.S. will face an unprecedented wave of dementia and cognitive decline. And unfortunately, current rates of cognitive assessment, diagnosis of dementia, and cognitive care planning are lacking.
Cognitive decline in Baby Boomers is beginning as young as 50. This is despite better health, higher education, and more competitive jobs than their parents’ generation. Since childhood conditions don’t seem to be the cause of this increased dementia risk for Boomers, research suggests symptoms of modern life such as increased social isolation, disparities in access to health care, and growing income inequality are likely contributing factors.
Modern Problems Require New Solutions
So how can older adults get ahead of these dementia risks and manage them if they begin to manifest?
Assessing cognitive function earlier could prevent significant cognitive impairment. And technology is leading the way.
BrainCheck gives providers the tools to assess cognitive health more efficiently to monitor specific impairments or emerging cognitive issues. It also enables clinicians to screen patients for factors such as depression, anxiety, opioid addiction and ADHD with valid behavioral health benchmarks so they can make recommendations for mental health and lifestyle improvements to help slow dementia risk.
If they haven’t already, physicians should talk to patients in this generation about their cognitive concerns? Asking about subjective memory complaints or cloudy thinking is the first step to identify and address cognitive impairment. And early detection and intervention are critical to reversing this trend.