Socioeconomic and Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Cognitive Trajectories among the Oldest Old: The Role of Vascular and Functional Health

TitleSocioeconomic and Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Cognitive Trajectories among the Oldest Old: The Role of Vascular and Functional Health
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsBishop, NJ
AdvisorKronenfeld, JJ
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages164
UniversityArizona State University
CityTempe, AZ
Accession Number201215705
KeywordsDemographics, Health Conditions and Status

Identifying modifiable causes of chronic disease is essential to prepare for the needs of an aging population. Cognitive decline is a precursor to the development of Alzheimer's and other dementing diseases, representing some of the most prevalent and least understood sources of morbidity and mortality associated with aging. To contribute to the literature on cognitive aging, this work focuses on the role of vascular and physical health in the development of cognitive trajectories while accounting for the socioeconomic context where health disparities are developed. The Assets and Health Dynamics among the Oldest-Old study provided a nationally-representative sample of non-institutionalized adults age 65 and over in 1998, with biennial follow-up continuing until 2008. Latent growth models with adjustment for non-random missing data were used to assess vascular, physical, and social predictors of cognitive change. A core aim of this project was examining socioeconomic and racial/ethnic variation in vascular predictors of cognitive trajectories. Results indicated that diabetes and heart problems were directly related to an increased rate of memory decline in whites, where these risk factors were only associated with baseline word-recall for blacks when conditioned on gender and household assets. These results support the vascular hypotheses of cognitive aging and attest to the significance of socioeconomic and racial/ethnic variation in vascular influences on cognitive health. The second substantive portion of this dissertation used parallel process latent growth models to examine the co-development of cognitive and functional health. Initial word-recall scores were consistently associated with later functional limitations, but baseline functional limitations were not consistently associated with later word-recall scores. Gender and household income moderated this relationship, and indicators of lifecourse SES were better equipped to explain variation in initial cognitive and functional status than change in these measures over time. Overall, this work suggests that research examining associations between cognitive decline, chronic disease, and disability must account for the social context where individuals and their health develop. Also, these findings advocate that reducing socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities in cognitive health among the aging requires interventions early in the lifecourse, as disparities in cognitive trajectories were solidified prior to late old age.


ISBN 9781124275345Dissertation Abstracts International, A: The Humanities and Social Sciences, vol. 72, no. 09, pp. 3523 0419-4209 9781124701622

Endnote Keywords

Mortality Rates

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Citation Key6223