Sensory impairments and cognitive ageing among older Europeans: a longitudinal analysis

Asri Maharani, Neil Pendleton, Neil Pendleton, James Y. Nazroo, Piers Dawes

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


Highly prevalent hearing and vision sensory impairments among older people may contribute to risk of cognitive decline and pathological impairments including dementia. The aim of the present study was to determine whether single and dual (hearing and vision) sensory impairment is independently associated with cognitive decline and to describe cognitive trajectories among older adults according to their impairment pattern.

We conducted applied growth trajectory models to repeated observations of cognitive function, hearing and visual sensory function, smoking status, drinking behaviour, health status and sociodemographic confounders using data from 24,116 participants in the baseline of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe 2002-2014. Sensory impairment was measured using self-reported hearing and vision quality. Sensory function was recoded into two categories by combining the responses excellent, very good and good into good sensory function and collapsing fair and poor vision into poor sensory function. We then defined sensory impairment as having poor sensory function. Cognitive ability was quantified using a summary cognitive score from the questions on episodic memory, verbal fluency, and numeracy.

The cognitive trajectories of older adults with better sensory function followed curvilinear shapes, while those of older adults with poorer sensory function showed more precipitous pattern trajectory of cognitive decline after the age of 50. Older adults with single (coefficient -0.064, 95% confidence intervals -0.072 to -0.056) and dual (coefficient -0.229, 95% confidence intervals -0.247 to -0.211) sensory impairment showed significantly lower cognitive function compared to those without sensory impairment after adjusting for risk factors. Being female, having attained a higher level of education, and being relatively wealthy were associated with higher cognitive function in older adults. Unemployed and retired respondents had lower cognitive abilities compared to those who were still working.

Our results suggest that both single and dual sensory impairments are associated with both accelerated cognitive decline and more precipitous pattern trajectory. Sensory impairment is a marker for risk of cognitive decline that could inform preventative interventions to maximise cognitive health and longevity. Further studies are needed to investigate how sensory markers could inform strategies to improve cognitive ageing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAlzheimer's & Dementia
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2017

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Cathie Marsh Institute
  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


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