Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Economic insecurity exposure and cognitive function in late life
  1. Yanan Luo1,
  2. Ming Xu1,
  3. Richard Liang2
  1. 1 Department of Global Health, School of Public Health, Peking University, Beijing, China
  2. 2 School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ming Xu, Department of Global Health, School of Public Health, Peking University, Beijing, China; xum{at}


Objectives This study took the State-owned Enterprises (SOE) reform from 1996 to 2002 in China as a natural experiment to explore the consequences of economic insecurity exposure during early-adulthood and mid-adulthood on cognitive function in later life.

Methods Data were obtained from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Survey (CHARLS), 2014 and 2015. CHARLS is a nationally representative survey covering 28 provinces in China. A total of 4536 urban dwellers born earlier than 1971 (aged 25 years old and above at the start of the SOE reform in 1996) were included in our analyses. Using province-year-level economic loss from the layoffs, we examined the impact of economic insecurity exposure on the cognitive function score by using a difference-in-differences model with 1996–2002 as the cut-off.

Results Individuals exposed to economic insecurity have significantly decreased cognitive function, in which a 1% point increase in expected economic loss would decrease the cognitive function score by 0.09 (95% CI: −0.17 to –0.01). Given that the average intensity of expected economic loss was 11.59% and the mean score of cognitive function was 21.26, exposure to the SOE reforms led to an average decrease in the cognitive function score by at least 4.91%.

Conclusions Providing cognitive health surveillance and psychological counselling may be important for preventing cognitive decline among those experiencing economic insecurity.


Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data can be accessed from

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data can be accessed from

View Full Text


  • Contributors YL contributed to drafting manuscript and data analysis. MX contributed to supervision and critical revision. RL contributed to critical revision. YL and MX are responsible for the overall content as the guarantor.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Map disclaimer The depiction of boundaries on this map does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of BMJ (or any member of its group) concerning the legal status of any country, territory, jurisdiction or area or of its authorities. This map is provided without any warranty of any kind, either express or implied.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.