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SNAP Use Linked to Slower Decline in Memory for Older Adults

SNAP users had about two fewer years of cognitive aging than nonusers during a 10-year period

THURSDAY, Nov. 10, 2022 (HealthDay News) — For older adults, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) use is associated with a slower decline in memory function, according to a study published online Nov. 9 in Neurology.

Peiyi Lu, Ph.D., from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues examined the associations between SNAP use and memory decline among U.S. SNAP-eligible older adults (aged 50 years and older). Overall, 15.7 percent of the 3,555 SNAP-eligible participants were SNAP users.

SNAP users had lower socioeconomic status and a greater number of chronic conditions than nonusers at baseline, and they were more likely to be lost to follow-up. The researchers found that SNAP users appeared to have worse memory scores at baseline in multivariable inverse probability-weighted models, but slower rates of memory decline than nonusers (annual decline rates, −0.038 and −0.046 standardized units for users and nonusers, respectively). For the propensity score-matched sample (1,014 participants), the results were slightly stronger (annual decline rates, −0.046 and −0.060 units for users and nonusers, respectively). During a 10-year period, SNAP users had about two fewer years of cognitive aging than nonusers.

“While SNAP’s primary goal is to reduce food insecurity among low-income households and to increase access to higher quantity and quality foods, eating healthier may also benefit brain health,” a coauthor said in a statement. “SNAP may also reduce stress and overall financial hardship, which has been linked to premature cognitive aging and reduced brain health. Future research should explore these underlying impacts.”

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