Socioeconomic status impacts cognitive and socioemotional processes in healthy ageing
Sci Rep. 2022 Apr 11;12(1):6048. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-09580-4.
Socioeconomic status (SES) negatively impacts cognitive and executive functioning in older adults, yet its effects on socioemotional abilities have not been studied in this population. Also, evidence on neurocognitive processes associated with ageing primarily comes from Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) populations, hindering the generalization of findings to persons from upper-middle- and low-middle-income countries, such as those of Latin America. Here, we compared the performance of low- and high-SES older adults from Argentina in cognitive state, executive functions, social cognition (emotion recognition and theory of mind), and counter-empathic social emotions (envy and Schadenfreude; displeasure at others' fortune and pleasure at others' misfortune, respectively). Subsequently, we developed a path analysis to test the relationship among those variables in a theoretically plausible model and tested the main paths via multiple regression analyses. Relative to the high-SES group, low-SES older adults showed poorer performance on all assessed domains. Convergent evidence from covariance analysis, path analysis, and linear regressions suggested that low-SES impact on socioemotional processes was not primary but mediated by cognitive and executive impairment. These findings offer the first characterization of SES impacts on cognitive and socioemotional processes in a non-WEIRD population and have relevant equity-related implications for brain health.