Demographic predictors of cognitive change in ethnically diverse older persons

Dawnté R. Early, Keith F. Widaman, Danielle J Harvey, Laurel A Beckett, Lovingly Quitania Park, Sarah E Tomaszewski Farias, Bruce R Reed, Charles DeCarli, Dan M Mungas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

54 Scopus citations

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to evaluate how demographic variables relate to cognitive change and address whether cross-sectional demographic effects on cognitive tests are mirrored in differences in longitudinal trajectories of cognitive decline. We hypothesized that race and ethnicity, education, and language of test administration would relate to cross-sectional status and that the rate of cognitive decline would differ among African Americans, Hispanics, and Caucasians, across levels of educational attainment, and according to linguistic background. Participants were 404 educationally, ethnically, and cognitively diverse older adults enrolled in an ongoing longitudinal study of cognition. Mixed-effects regression analysis was used to measure baseline status and longitudinal change in episodic memory, executive functioning, and semantic memory. Results showed that ethnicity and education were strongly associated with baseline scores, but were, at most, weakly associated with change in cognition over time after accounting for confounding variables. There was evidence that the episodic-memory scores of Spanish-speaking Hispanic participants with limited education underestimated their true abilities in the initial evaluation, which may reflect lack of familiarity with the testing environment. These results- consistent with other reports in the literature-suggest that cross-sectional effects of demographic variables on cognitive-test scores result from differences in life experiences that directly influence test performance and do not indicate greater disease effects on cognition in minorities and those with limited education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-645
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology and Aging
Volume28
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2013

Keywords

  • African Americans
  • Cognitive change
  • Dementia
  • Ethnic differences
  • Hispanics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Social Psychology

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