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Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2016 Sep;31(9):1004-12. doi: 10.1002/gps.4410. Epub 2016 Jan 14.

Racial and ethnic differences in cognitive function among older adults in the USA.

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Postdoctoral Fellow, Rehabilitation Sciences Academic Division and Research Center, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, USA.
Postdoctoral Trainee, Sealy Center on Aging, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, USA.
Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Senior Fellow, Sealy Center on Aging, Professor, Preventive Medicine & Community Health, Director, WHO/PAHO Collaborating Center on Aging and Health, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, USA.



Examine differences in cognition between Hispanic, non-Hispanic black (NHB), and non-Hispanic white (NHW) older adults in the United States.


The final sample includes 18 982 participants aged 51 or older who received a modified version of the Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status during the 2010 Health and Retirement Study follow-up. Ordinary least squares will be used to examine differences in overall cognition according to race/ethnicity.


Hispanics and NHB had lower cognition than NHW for all age groups (51-59, 60-69, 70-79, 80+). Hispanics had higher cognition than NHB for all age groups but these differences were all within one point. The lower cognition among NHB compared to NHW remained significant after controlling for age, gender, and education, whereas the differences in cognition between Hispanics and NHW were no longer significant after controlling for these covariates. Cognitive scores increased with greater educational attainment for all race/ethnic groups, but Hispanics exhibited the least benefit.


Our results highlight the role of education in race/ethnic differences in cognitive function during old age. Education seems beneficial for cognition in old age for all race/ethnic groups, but Hispanics appear to receive a lower benefit compared to other race/ethnic groups. Further research is needed on the racial and ethnic differences in the pathways of the benefits of educational attainment for late-life cognitive function. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


HRS; USA; cognition; older adults; race/ethnicity

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