Relationship between socioeconomic status and cognitive ability among Chinese older adults: The moderating role of social support

Leiyu SHI, Lei TAO, Nanqian CHEN, Hailun LIANG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review


Background: Understanding the causes and pathways of cognitive decline among older populations is of great importance in China. This study aims to examine whether the discrepancy in socioeconomic status (SES) makes a difference to the cognitive ability among Chinese older adults, and to disentangle the moderating role of different types of social support in the process in which SES influences cognition. 

Methods: We utilized a nationally representative sample from the 2018 Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey. A cumulative SES score was constructed to measure the combined effect of different socioeconomic statuses on the cognitive ability of the elderly. We further examined the moderating role of two types of social support, including emotional support, and financial support. Hierarchical regression analysis was applied to test the direct effect of SES on cognitive ability, and to investigate the moderating role of social support on the association of the SES with the dependent variables. 

Results: The results showed that the higher SES of older adults was significantly associated with better cognitive ability (β = 0.52, p < 0.001) after controlling for age, sex, marital status, living region, Hukou, health insurance, lifestyle factors, and physical health status. Emotional support and financial support were moderated the relationship between SES score and cognitive ability. 

Conclusion: Our results reveal the importance of considering social support in buffering the effects of SES and the associated cognitive ability for aging populations. It highlights the importance of narrowing the socioeconomic gap among the elderly. Policymakers should consider promoting social support to improve the cognitive ability among older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Article number70
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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