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Health

Study links job loss to cognitive decline

People who are laid off work or forced to work part-time can suffer mental skill losses later, according to a new European study. The OECD meanwhile says most rich nations have cut health spending.

Recessionary layoffs or job setbacks that occur at the peak of a person's working life can translate into later declines in cognitive skills, said the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in a new study released Thursday.

Researchers based at the University of Luxembourg looked at data spanning 12,000 people aged 50 and older in 11 European countries. Volunteers had been tested on five skills, including memory, verbal fluency and numeracy.

The study concludes that a stimulating job can boost cognitive reserves or abilities in later life. But if a job loss or a work downgrade occurs mental reserves needed in later life are prematurely eroded.

Writing in the London-based journal, lead researcher Anja Leist said on average every recessionary event when a person is at his or her working life peak can later cost one year in cognitive skill.

For example, someone who went through three job knockbacks would, at the age of 60, have the cognitive skills of an unaffected person aged 63.

First study to establish link

"To our knowledge this is the first study to show that economic recessions experienced at vulnerable ages in early and mid-adulthood are associated with lower cognitive function at older ages," Leist said.

Men were hardest effected by job loss or downgrading in their mid to late 40s. Women suffered the worst impacts in their mid-20s to mid-30s.

The authors said their findings indicated that "policies that ameliorate the impact of recessions on labor market outcomes" might improve cognitive function in later life.

OECD highlights health cuts

In separate findings published Thursday, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said a third of the world's 33 advanced nations cut health spending between 2009 and 2011.

The OECD said recession had prompted nations to cut back on medicines, limit wages in hospitals and scale back budgets for prevention programs.

Just two OECD countries accelerated health spending - Israel and Japan.

EU bailout candidate Greece cut its health spending by 11 percent. Ireland did so by 6.6 percent and the US by 1.3 percent.

The OECD also highlighted the percentage spent by individuals out of their own pockets alongside state assistance.

Patients' direct payments for health services ranged from 10 percent in the Netherlands and France to over 35 percent in Chile, South Korea and Mexico.

Well-being affected

Another OECD study released on November 5 found that the global economic crisis had impacted on individual well-being, especially in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Hungary.

Indices measuring average life satisfaction between 2007 and 2012 fell by 20 percent in Greece and 12 percent in Spain.

Those in Germany who described themselves as "very satisfied" rose by 8 percent over the same period.

The OECD, which includes 21 of EU's 28 countries, concluded that the economic crisis had led to overall declines in household incomes, jobs and housing conditions.

ipj/jr (AFP, dpa)