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Ethn Dis. 2007 Spring;17(2):381-8.

Memory performance and mild cognitive impairment in Black and White community elders.

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School of Nursing, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78701, USA.



Deficits in memory performance are often nonspecific predictors of cognitive decline and may portend a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).


We examined age, depression, education, gender, memory complaints, and race as related to memory performance because memory is a fundamental criterion from which MCI is evaluated.


The study recruited Black and White adults, > or = 70 years of age, who lived in the community, spoke English, and were screened for no cognitive impairment. Bivariate analyses (t tests and Pearson correlations) and multiple regressions were performed.


The sample consisted of 89 African Americans and 83 Caucasian Americans. Compared to their White counterparts, Blacks had lower educational attainment, had lower baseline cognition and memory performance, were more likely to report symptoms of depression, and were more likely to have impaired memory performance. In the overall sample 52% were classified as having a poor memory, and 25% of the Caucasians and 44% of the Blacks were classified as moderately or severely memory impaired; however no difference in memory complaints was observed between the groups. Sixteen percent of the sample reported clinically significant depressive symptoms. Age and race were the statistically significant predictors of memory performance in the multiple regression analysis, even accounting for education, depression, gender, and memory complaints.


Why race remains a unique predictor is an unresolved issue in need of future research. Finally, using the three criteria available in this data set, 44% of the Blacks and 35% of the Caucasians in this sample would qualify for a diagnosis of MCI.

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