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Neuropsychology. 2016 Jul;30(5):543-57. doi: 10.1037/neu0000253. Epub 2015 Nov 23.

Environment and cognitive aging: A cross-sectional study of place of residence and cognitive performance in the Irish longitudinal study on aging.

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School of Applied Psychology, University College Cork.
Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University.
Department of Medical Gerontology and The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), Trinity College.



Stimulating environments foster cognitive vitality in older age. However, it is not known whether and how geographical and physical characteristics of lived environments contribute to cognitive aging. Evidence of higher prevalence of dementia in rural rather than urban contexts suggests that urban environments may be more stimulating either cognitively, socially, or in terms of lifestyle. The present study explored urban/rural differences in cognition for healthy community-dwelling older people while controlling for a comprehensive spectrum of confounding factors.


Cognitive performance of 3,765 healthy Irish people aged 50+ years participating in Wave 1 of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging was analyzed in relation to current location of residence-urban, other settlements, or rural areas-and its interaction with childhood residence. Regression models controlled for sociodemographic, health, and lifestyle factors.


Urban residents showed better performance than the other 2 residence groups for global cognition and executive functions after controlling for covariates. Childhood urban residence was associated with a cognitive advantage especially for currently rural participants.


Our findings suggest higher cognitive functioning for urban residents, although childhood residence modulates this association. Suggestions for further developments of these results are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record

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