Wörn, Jonathan (2019). Social Determinants of Cognitive Functioning and Its Development in Old Age: The Role of Education, Spousal Loss and Neighborhoods in a Longitudinal Perspective. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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Populations are aging in many countries all over the world. This trend is not only manifest in increased numbers and population shares of older adults; it is also associated with increases in old-age life expectancy. In conjunction with the quantitative gain in years, questions about the quality of life have been expressed. This is reflected in Rowe & Kahn’s concept of Successful Aging, which posits that cognitive functioning (CF) is one of the main resources for active engagement with life in old age. Besides medical, biological and behavioral factors, social factors can be expected to play an important role in CF because they are often enduring or intense in nature and shape cognitively relevant experiences in many areas of life. Against this background, this dissertation examines potential social determinants of older adults’ CF. At the theoretical level, I combine a sociological perspective emphasizing the importance of social factors in shaping individual experiences throughout the life course with psychological theories that link individual experiences (e.g., mental stimulation, stress, physical activity) to CF. At the empirical level, I apply growth curve modeling, fixed effect regression, and multilevel analysis to data from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam to address the following research questions: Are more (vs. less) educated persons more likely to maintain their CF as they grow older? Will the loss of the spouse accelerate cognitive decline? Does the CF of people in better-off or urban neighborhoods differ from that of their counterparts in less well-off or rural neighborhoods? The results indicate that the social factors examined in this dissertation are hardly associated with cognitive decline in old age. However, cross-sectional comparisons of the level of CF by education and neighborhood characteristics reveal that being more educated and living in a more urbanized neighborhood are associated with higher CF.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
Wörn, Jonathanwoern@wiso.uni-koeln.deUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-96684
Date: 2019
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Management, Economy and Social Sciences
Divisions: Weitere Institute, Arbeits- und Forschungsgruppen > Institute of Sociology and Social Psychology (ISS)
Subjects: Psychology
Social sciences
General statistics
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Life Course; Cognitive Aging; Cognitive Decline; Education; Widowhood; NeighborhoodEnglish
Lebensverlauf; Kognitives Altern; Abnahme kognitiver Fähigkeiten; Bildung; Verwitwung; WohnumgebungGerman
Date of oral exam: 24 April 2019
NameAcademic Title
Hank, KarstenProf. Dr.
Ellwardt, LeaProf. Dr.
Funders: Stipendium des Graduiertenkollegs Soclife (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft)
Refereed: Yes
URI: http://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/id/eprint/9668


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