The Effects of Midlife Acute and Chronic Stressors on Black-White Differences in Cognitive Decline.

TitleThe Effects of Midlife Acute and Chronic Stressors on Black-White Differences in Cognitive Decline.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsMitchell, UA, Shaw, BA, Torres, JM, Brown, LL, Barnes, LL
JournalJournal of Applied Gerontology, Series B, Psychological Sciences and social sciences
ISSN Number1758-5368
KeywordsBlack or African American, Cognition, Cognitive Dysfunction, Humans, Middle Aged, Stress, Psychological, White

OBJECTIVES: Midlife stressors may be particularly consequential for cognitive performance and disparities in cognitive decline. This study examined Black-White differences in trajectories of cognition among middle-aged adults and the effects of acute and chronic stressors on these trajectories.

METHODS: Data come from 4,011 cognitively healthy individuals aged 51-64 (620 Black and 3,391 White) who participated in the 2006-2018 waves of the Health and Retirement Study. Stressors included a count of recent life events and measures of financial strain and everyday discrimination. Global cognition was assessed using a modified version of the Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status. Linear mixed models with random slopes and intercepts assessed change in cognition over time. Race-by-time, race-by-stressor, time-by-stressor, and race-by-stressor-by-time interactions were assessed as were quadratic terms for time and each stressor.

RESULTS: After adjusting for sociodemographic, health behaviors, and health-related factors, Black respondents had lower initial cognitive performance scores (b = -1.75, p < .001) but experienced earlier but slower decline in cognitive performance over time (Black × Time2 interaction: b = 0.02, p < .01). Financial strain, discrimination, and recent life events each had distinct associations with cognitive performance but did not influence racial differences in levels of or change in cognition over time.

DISCUSSION: Middle-aged Black adults have lower initial cognition levels and experience earlier but less accelerated cognitive decline compared to White middle-aged adults. Midlife acute and chronic stressors influence baseline cognition but do so in different ways. Future research should examine the influence of other stressors on racial differences in cognitive decline at other points in the life course.

Alternate JournalJ Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci
Citation Key13690
PubMed ID37788484
PubMed Central IDPMC10699748
Grant ListR21 AG065654 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
U01 AG009740 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
U01AG009740 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
1R21AG065654-01A1 / NH / NIH HHS / United States