How Years of Low Income Can Affect Your Memory in Later Life

Sept, 2022

Vocabulary list 

• Students read each word followed by the definition, focusing on the correct pronunciation.

• The teacher reads the sample sentence and the students repeat, focusing on the correct pronunciation.

• After reading the list, students try to make their own example sentences using the words that are new to them. 

• Students share their example sentences and the teacher gives feedback, correcting errors if necessary.

earn (verb)


to receive money from one’s job or investments

Waiters earn most of their money from tips.


decline (noun)


a continuous decrease in amount, quality, etc.

There has been a decline in people getting married in the last 10 years.


rate (noun)


an amount or level of payment for something

The airline’s rates for economy class are their lowest.


median (adjective)


the value that is the middle one in a set of values arranged in order of size

The median household income in the US was $70,784 in 2021.


startling (adjective)


surprising, often in a concerning way

The archaeologists made a startling discovery.


age (verb)


to grow or become older

You haven’t aged at all since the last time I saw you.


minimum wage (noun)

ˌmɪnɪməm ˈweɪdʒ

the lowest wage that an employer can legally pay

In 2021, the minimum wage in the UK for adults 23 or over was an hourly rate of £8.91.

How Years of Low Income Can Affect Your Memory in Later Life

According to research by Columbia University, a study has found that earning low wages could affect your memory later in life. The study found that people in the US who earned low wages over a number of years were more likely to experience faster memory decline.

Researchers looked at data from more than 2,800 people who were born between 1936 and 1941, then they looked at what these people earned between 1992 and 2004. Using this information, they put the people into three groups based on their earnings during this period of time: those who had always earned low wages, those who had sometimes earned low wages, and those who had never earned low wages.

Low wages in the study were defined as an hourly rate that was lower than two-thirds of the US’ median wage for that year. Therefore, if the median wage was $10 per hour, their earnings would be less than $6.67 per hour.

The results were quite startling. It was found that between the years 2004 and 2016 when these people would have been 63 and older, those in the low-wage group experienced faster aging of the mind. It was also found that, over a period of 10 years, the minds of long-term low earners aged about a year faster than those who never earned low wages.

The minimum hourly wage in the US has been $7.25 since 2009, although some states offer a higher rate. For example, in Florida, the minimum wage is $10 per hour, and in California it is $14. While in the capital, Washington DC, the minimum hourly rate is $16.10.

The research, which was based on wages and not the type of work that people were doing, was shared in a presentation at an international meeting of the Alzheimer’s Association.



1. The study used data based on people’s earnings between 1936 and 1941.



2. How were the people in the study put into groups?


3. In the study, what did they consider as a low wage?

a. €10
b. More than a third less than the minimum wage
c. Half the national minimum wage


4. The study found that the minds of low earners aged about a year slower than normal over a 10-year period.



5. The minimum wage in the US is not the same all over the country.



  • What do you think about the outcomes of this study? Does it surprise you? Why/Why not?
  • Why do you think that low wages affect people’s memory?
  • Without considering your professional skills and experience, how much do you think one hour of your time is worth?
  • If your country has a minimum wage, do you know what it is?
  • What do you think is a reasonable minimum wage for any worker?
  • Do you think this is enough for a single adult to live comfortably in your town or city? If not, then how much?
  • If you had the choice, when would you like to retire?
  • How do you think you will spend your time once you retire?
  • What do you think are the best ways to keep the mind functioning well as we age?
  • What do you think of this statement by Henry Ford: ‘Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty’ ?