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Homeless and precariously housed individuals experience a high burden of comorbid illnesses, and excess mortality. Cross-sectional studies report a high rate of cognitive impairment. Long-term trajectories have not been well investigated in this group.
To longitudinally assess risks for premature and/or accelerated cognitive ageing, and the relationship with early mortality in homeless and precariously housed people.
This is a 9-year community-based study of 375 homeless and precariously housed individuals from Vancouver, Canada. Annual cognitive testing assessed verbal learning and memory, and inhibitory control. Linear mixed-effects models examined associations between clinical risk factors (traumatic brain injury, psychotic disorders, viral exposure, alcohol dependence) and cognitive change over 9 years. Cox regression models examined the association between cognition and mortality.
Traumatic brain injury and alcohol dependence were associated with decline in verbal memory. Inhibitory control declined, independent of risk factors and to a greater extent in those who died during the study. Better inhibitory control was associated with a 6.6% lower risk of mortality at study entry, with a 0.3% greater effect for each year of life. For each one-point increase in the Charlson Comorbidity Index score at study entry, the risk of mortality was 9.9% higher, and was consistent across age. Adjusting for comorbidities, inhibitory control remained a significant predictor of mortality.
Findings raise the possibility of a premature onset, and accelerated trajectory, of cognitive ageing in this group of homeless and precariously housed people. Traumatic brain injury, alcohol dependence and cognition could be treatment priorities.
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