Invited Commentary: Adult Child Migration and Parental Cognitive Decline-A New Perspective on Loneliness and Social Isolation

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There is a growing body of research on the link between social isolation, loneliness, and health outcomes in later life, including cognitive decline and dementia. In the current issue of the Journal, Torres et al. (Am J Epidemiol. 2020;189(8):761-769) present findings from a study of the association between adult child migration status and cognitive performance among parents who stayed behind in Mexico, using longitudinal data (2001-2015) from the Mexican Health and Aging Study. This is an excellent example of the role that emotional and social factors may play in the development of cognitive impairment among older adults. In their study, having an adult child in the United States was associated with a steeper decline in verbal memory scores over time, but only among women. In the light of the increasing levels of immigration worldwide, this work is highly relevant, as it touches upon a less recognized socioemotional risk factor for cognitive decline: family-member migration status. Further research on this topic should be conducted in other countries and should include assessment of the social and emotional needs of those staying behind when a family member migrates. This will increase our understanding of how social isolation and loneliness relate to cognitive decline and may contribute to new directions for interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)770-772
Number of pages3
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number8
Early online date13 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020

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