University of Oulu

Nurmi, A., Pulkki-Råback, L., Salo, P., Pahkala, K., Juonala, M., Hutri-Kähönen, N., Kähönen, M., Lehtimäki, T., Jokinen, E., Keltikangas-Järvinen, L., Laitinen, T. P., Tossavainen, P., Taittonen, L., Viikari, J. S. A., Raitakari, O. T., & Rovio, S. P. (2023). The associations of childhood psychosocial factors with cognitive function in midlife—The young finns study. Neuropsychology, 37(1), 64–76.

The associations of childhood psychosocial factors with cognitive function in midlife : the Young Finns Study

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Author: Nurmi, Amanda1,2; Pulkki-Råback, Laura3; Salo, Pia1,2;
Organizations: 1Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Turku
2Centre for Population Health Research, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
3Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki
4Paavo Nurmi Centre & Unit for Health and Physical Activity, University of Turku
5Department of Medicine, University of Turku
6Division of Medicine, Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
7Tampere Centre for Skills Training and Simulation, Tampere University
8Department of Clinical Physiology, Tampere University Hospital and Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University
9Department of Clinical Chemistry, Fimlab Laboratories and Finnish Cardiovascular Research Center-Tampere, Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University
10Department of Pediatric Cardiology, Hospital for Children and Adolescents, University of Helsinki
11Department of Clinical Physiology, Kuopio University Hospital and University of Eastern Finland
12Department of Children and Adolescents, Oulu University Hospital, PEDEGO Research Unit and Medical Research Centre Oulu, University of Oulu
13Department of Pediatrics, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland
14Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.6 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: American Psychological Association, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-10-12


Objective: An adverse psychosocial environment in childhood may harm cognitive development, but the associations for adulthood cognitive function remain obscure. We tested the hypothesis that adverse childhood psychosocial factors associate with poor cognitive function in midlife by leveraging the prospective data from the Young Finns Study.

Method: At the age of 3–18 years, the participants’ psychosocial factors (socioeconomic and emotional environment, parental health behaviors, stressful events, child’s self-regulatory behavior, and social adjustment) were collected. In addition to the separate psychosocial factors, a score indicating their clustering was created. Cognitive function was measured at the age of 34–49 years with a computerized test addressing learning and memory (N =1,011), working memory (N = 1,091), sustained attention and information processing (N = 1,071), and reaction and movement time (N =999).

Results: We observed an inverse association between the accumulation of unfavorable childhood psychosocial factors and poorer learning and memory in midlife (age, sex, education, adulthood smoking, alcohol drinking, and physical activity adjusted β = −0.032, SE = 0.01, p = .009). This association corresponded approximately to the effect of 7 months aging. Specifically, poor self-regulatory behavior (β= −0.074, SE = 0.03, p = .032) and social adjustment in childhood (β = −0.111, SE = 0.03, p = .001) associated with poorer learning ability and memory 30 years later. No associations were found for other cognitive domains.

Conclusions: The findings suggest an association of childhood psychosocial factors with midlife learning ability and memory. If these links are causal, the results highlight the importance of a child’s self-regulation and social adjustment as plausible determinants for adulthood cognitive health.

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Series: Neuropsychology
ISSN: 0894-4105
ISSN-E: 1931-1559
ISSN-L: 0894-4105
Volume: 37
Issue: 1
Pages: 64 - 76
DOI: 10.1037/neu0000877
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3123 Gynaecology and paediatrics
Funding: This work was supported by the Academy of Finland: Grants 286284, 134309 (Eye), 126925, 121584, 124282, 129378 (Salve), 117787 (Gendi), 41071 (Skidi), and 322,098 (Terho Lehtimäki); the Social Insurance Institution of Finland; Competitive State Research Financing of the Expert Responsibility area of Kuopio, Tampere, and Turku University Hospitals (Grant X51001); Juho Vainio Foundation; Paavo Nurmi Foundation; Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research; Finnish Cultural Foundation; The Sigrid Juselius Foundation; Tampere Tuberculosis Foundation; Emil Aaltonen Foundation; YrjöJahnsson Foundation; Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation; the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation; Diabetes Research Foundation of Finnish Diabetes Association; and EU Horizon 2020 (Grant 755320 for TAXINOMISIS and Grant 848146 for TO-AITION); and European Research Council (Grant 742927 for MULTIEPIGEN project); Tampere University Hospital Supporting Foundation. Katja Pahkala is supported by the Academy of Finland research fellowship (322112).
Copyright information: © American Psychological Association, 2023. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at: