Death of a Child Prior to Midlife, Dementia Risk, and Racial Disparities.

TitleDeath of a Child Prior to Midlife, Dementia Risk, and Racial Disparities.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsUmberson, D, Donnelly, R, Xu, M, Farina, M, Garcia, MA
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology, Series B
ISSN Number1758-5368
KeywordsBereavement, Cumulative advantage/disadvantage, Dementia, Minority aging

OBJECTIVES: This study considers whether experiencing the death of a child prior to midlife (by parental age 40) is associated with subsequent dementia risk, and how such losses, which are more common for black than for white parents, may add to racial disparities in dementia risk.

METHODS: We use discrete-time event history models to predict dementia incidence among 9,276 non-Hispanic white and 2,182 non-Hispanic black respondents from the Health and Retirement Study, 2000-2014.

RESULTS: Losing a child prior to midlife is associated with increased risk for later dementia, and adds to disparities in dementia risk associated with race. The death of a child is associated with a number of biosocial variables that contribute to subsequent dementia risk, helping to explain how the death of child may increase risk over time.

DISCUSSION: The death of a child prior to midlife is a traumatic life course stressor with consequences that appear to increase dementia risk for both black and white parents, and this increased risk is explained by biosocial processes likely activated by bereavement. However, black parents are further disadvantaged in that they are more likely than white parents to experience the death of a child, and such losses add to the already substantial racial disadvantage in dementia risk.

Citation Key11184
PubMed ID31760426
PubMed Central IDPMC7566971