Researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark monitored 5,000 middle-aged adults over between 1987 and 2008. Of this, 18 per cent had experienced ‘economic hardship’ for four years or longer, which meant they had an income 60 per cent less than the national average across 22 years.
Throughout the study period, the researchers recorded the participant’s cognitive and physical function, including chair rise, grip strength, jump and balance. They found that those who experienced long periods of relative poverty performed worse than those who didn’t have the same money stresses. As well as early onset of poor cognitive function, they noted an increase of inflammation in the body – a condition that contributes to a bunch of concerning health issues like chronic disease and mental illness.
Interestingly though, the participants who experienced these financial woes early on in life were not affected in the same way as those who dealt with it later on (e.g. via job a termination, which, the study’s authors noted, was a significant contributing factor.)
Also worth noting: the study didn’t look into other things that might have accelerated signs of ageing, e.g. diseases that are often associated with poorer populations.