Studies have reported that the age-adjusted incidence of cognitive impairment and dementia have decreased over the past two decades. Aging is the predominant risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias and for neurocognitive decline. However, aging alone cannot explain changes in the overall age-adjusted incidence of dementia. The objective of this position paper was to describe the potential for cohort and period effects in cognitive decline and incidence of dementia. Cohort effects have long been reported in demographic literature, but starting in the early 1980s researchers began reporting large historical cohort trends in cognitive function. At the same time, period effects have emerged in the form of economic factors and stressors in early and midlife that may result in reduced cognitive dysfunction. Recognizing that aging individuals today were once children and adolescents and that research has clearly noted that childhood cognitive performance are associated with old-age cognitive performance, this review proposes the need to connect these cohort effects with differences in late-life functioning.
Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.