Aging Baby Boomers have taken a variety of approaches to keep their cognitive abilities sharp, from meditation to specially designed games to (my personal favorite) eating chocolate.

But new research finds one factor that influences the rate at which our brains age is largely outside our control: our socioeconomic status.

“We provide evidence that there exists a powerful relationship between an individual’s present environment and their brain,” a research team led by Micaela Chan and Gagan Wig of the University of Texas–Dallas writes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In its study, middle-aged adults of lower socioeconomic status “exhibited signs of both functional and structural brain aging earlier in adulthood” than their better-off peers.

“Engaging and resourceful environments associated with higher socioeconomic status may provide a buffer or delay against aging,” the researchers write. “Inadequate health conditions associated with lower socioeconomic status environments (such as exposure to toxins and poorer nutrition), together with continual stress, may accelerate the aging process.”

The study featured 304 participants between the ages of 20 and 89, who were recruited in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Their socioeconomic status was determined by their years of education and occupation.

Using neuroimaging, the researchers evaluated participants’ brains in two ways, measuring “functional network organization and cortical gray matter thickness.” They found both measures demonstrated greater aging in people of lower socioeconomic status, even after accounting for demographic differences and personal health.

Read more at PS Mag