Marital Quality and Cognitive Limitations in Late Life

Abstract

Objectives. Identifying factors associated with cognitive limitations among older adults has become a major public health objective. Given the importance of marital relationships for older adults’ health, this study examines the association between marital quality and change in cognitive limitations in late life, directionality of the relationship between marital quality and cognitive limitations, and potential gender differences in these associations.

Method. Latent growth curve models were used to estimate the association of marital quality with change in cognitive limitations among older adults and the direction of the association between marital quality and cognitive limitations using 4 waves of the Americans’ Changing Lives survey (N = 841).

Results. Results indicate that more frequent negative (but not positive) marital experiences are associated with a slower increase in cognitive limitations over time, and the direction of this association does not operate in the reverse (i.e., cognitive limitations did not lead to change in marital quality over time). The association between negative marital experiences and cognitive limitations is similar for men and women.

Discussion. The discussion highlights possible explanations for the apparent protective effect of negative marital experiences for older adults’ cognitive health over time, regardless of gender.

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