An International Perspective on Aging and Cognitive Decline

Publication: ThesisDoctoral thesis

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Worldwide populations are growing older. Thus, many countries fear economic and societal burden, but population aging can also be seen as an opportunity for a society. Which view prevails is very much dependent on the chosen measures of aging that are so far mainly based on chronological age.
In the first part of this thesis measures of population aging are analyzed and new measures are proposed. The novel cognition adjusted dependency ratio (CADR) is introduced as an alternative to the old-age dependency ratio (OADR), which only considers a chronological age threshold. A CADR based ranking of certain countries across the world shows a completely different picture compared to an OADR based ranking of the same countries. Northern European countries and the United States are listed at the top according to their CADR, while they are at the bottom end considering their OADR. This difference is discussed in detail within this thesis.
On the micro level, a characteristics based approach is proposed to measure and compare individual aging. More specifically, differences in aging are converted into single years of age, which highlights the magnitude of differences between groups such as socioeconomic subpopulations. The second part of this thesis addresses the huge variability in cognitive functioning, a dimension of healthy aging, between and within countries. The relationship between cognition and education (e.g. individual and national level) is investigated across countries that vary substantially in terms of their demography and level of economic and social development. The results indicate that increasing the national educational level is assigned with better individual cognitive performance in addition to the positive individual education effect. In the subsequent study, determinants associated with the differences in cognitive functioning across countries, cohorts, and gender are examined. Improvements in living conditions and education support better cognitive performance. Moreover, better living conditions and higher education will increase gender differences in some cognitive functions and decrease or eliminate the gender differences in other cognitive abilities. (author's abstract)
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • WU Vienna
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015

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