|Title||The Role of Purpose in Life in the Relationship between Widowhood and Cognitive Decline among Older Adults in the U.S.|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2022|
|Authors||Shin, SHyun, Behrens, EA, Parmelee, P, Kim, G|
|Journal||The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry|
|Keywords||Cognitive decline, Purpose in life, Widowhood|
Objectives The objective of this study was to examine the role of purpose in life in the relationship between widowhood and cognitive decline. Methods This study used a sample of 12,856 respondents (20,408 observations) collected from a national panel survey, the 2006-2014 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), that sampled older adults aged 50 or older. The study estimated growth-curve models with years since spousal death, purpose in life, and interaction between the two to predict cognition using three measures—total cognition, fluid, and crystallized intelligence scores. We also estimated growth-curve models by sex, race/ethnicity, and education. Results While years since spousal death negatively correlated with cognition, purpose in life positively correlated with cognition. Furthermore, purpose in life had a moderating effect on the relationship between years since spousal death and cognition. This effect was found by using total cognition (coef.= 0.0515; z= 2.64; p<0.01) and fluid intelligence scores (coef.= 0.0576; z= 3.23; p<0.05). The same effects were salient among females (coef.= 0.0556; z= 2.19; p<0.05) Whites (coef.= 0.0526; z= 2.52; p<0.05), and older adults with more education (coef.= 0.0635; z= 2.10; p<0.05). Conclusions Higher purpose in life relates to the negative correlations between widowhood and cognition of older adults. Educational programs improving purpose in life are a possible avenue for reducing the adverse effect of widowhood on cognition and warrant future exploration.