Fertility history and cognitive function in late life: the case of Mexico
Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 1–13 (2019)
Mexico is aging rapidly, which makes identification of life-course factors influencing cognition a public health priority. We evaluate how the number of children one has relates to cognition in Mexico, a rapidly aging country that experienced fertility declines across recent cohorts of older people.
We analyze older adults (age 50+, n = 11,380) from the 2015 Mexican Health and Aging Study. Respondents were categorized by number of children ever born (0–1, 2–3, 4–5, 6+). Using ordinary least squares regression, we estimate independent associations between fertility history and cognition accounting for demographic, socioeconomic, health, and psychosocial factors.
We observed an inverse U-shaped relationship between number of children (peaking at 2–3 children) and cognitive function, regardless of gender. In regression analyses adjusted for confounding variables, having 0–1 (vs 2–3 children) was associated with poorer cognitive function only for females. Regardless of gender, having 6+ (vs 2–3 children) was associated with poorer cognitive function. These associations remained significant even after accounting for socioeconomic, health, employment, and psychosocial factors.
Our results suggest fertility history may play a role in late-life cognitive health and provide evidence that both low and high fertility may relate to poorer cognitive function. We discuss differences by gender.