A newly published study suggests that the economic status of a child can have impact on his or her memory and brain health in old age. Those who grew up in wealthier families tend to have sharper minds, and not only because the wealthier children grew up to have better jobs and thus better health. The researchers conclude that there are three ways poverty in childhood could affect brain health in adulthood.

The three ways are:

  1. Latency model – the idea that more cognitive stimulation during childhood leads to more advanced brain development in adulthood
  2. Pathway model – the idea that wealthier children are on a pathway to cultivating healthier brains because of better education, jobs, and less stressful lives
  3. Cumulative model – the idea that the cumulation of the stressors of a child with adverse childhood experiences compound and stack, leading to worse academic performance and subsequently cognitive decline

All these factors work together to influence the outcome of a child growing up with different economic backgrounds. The conclusion of the study was for more childhood interventions to prevent ageing-related cognitive decline.

Read the full article on The Atlantic: A Poor Childhood Could Hurt Your Memory in Old Age


This study’s results add on to the list of advantages accorded to people who grew up with wealthier family backgrounds. Without external intervention by schools or public programmes, the gap would naturally widen as these children are on different growth trajectories. In a meritocratic system, one assumption for fair play in the game is an equal starting line. Yet unfortunately, this is not the case in reality.

Childhood interventions to prevent ageing-related cognitive decline is essential as it leads to better health outcomes in adulthood, thus reducing the cost of healthcare. It is a vicious cycle. The less wealthy you were, the more health issues faced, and the cost of healthcare affects you more, which then affects your financial well-being even more.

Questions for further personal evaluation:

  1. How could someone who grew up in a less advantageous background defy the odds of growing up with saddled disadvantages?
  2. From an ethical standpoint, why is it necessary for governments and societies to intervene in this issue?

Useful vocabulary:

  1. ‘ameliorated’: make (something bad or unsatisfactory) better
  2. ‘precipitous’: sudden and dramatic

Picture credits:https://pixabay.com/photos/boys-playing-friends-1149665/