Socioeconomic and psychosocial mechanisms underlying racial/ethnic disparities in cognition among older adults

Author(s): Zahodne, LB; Sharifian, N; Kraal, AZ; Zaheed, AB; Sol, K; Morris, EP; Schupf, N; Manly, JJ; Brickman, AM;
Year: 2021;  
Journal: Neuropsychology;  
Volume: 35;  
Issue: 3;  

Objective: Racial/ethnic disparities in cognitive aging are only partly attributable to socioeconomic indicators. Psychosocial factors, such as discrimination and perceived control, also differ across racial/ethnic groups, and emerging literature highlights their potential role in contributing to cognitive disparities in addition to socioeconomic status. Method: 1,463 older adults (51% Hispanic, 27% non-Hispanic Black, and 22% non-Hispanic White) in the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project completed cognitive and psychosocial measures, including a comprehensive neuropsychological battery, Everyday and Major Experiences of Lifetime Discrimination scales, and the Perceived Control scale. Mediation models quantified separate indirect effects of Black race and Hispanic ethnicity on global cognitive composite scores through education, income, discrimination, and external perceived control. Results: Educational attainment, income, and perceived control each mediated racial/ethnic disparities in global cognition. Socioeconomic indicators (i.e., lower education and lower income) explained approximately 50% of the Black-White and Hispanic-White disparities in global cognition, and more external perceived control explained an additional 5%-8%. Hispanics reported the lowest levels of discrimination, while non-Hispanic Blacks reported the highest levels. However, neither everyday nor major lifetime discrimination was associated with global cognition. Significant racial/ethnic disparities in global cognition remained after accounting for the included socioeconomic and psychosocial factors. Conclusions: This study suggests that psychosocial factors may explain racial/ethnic disparities in cognitive aging above and beyond socioeconomic indicators. More external perceived control, which could reflect chronic exposure to interpersonal and institutional marginalization, may be a particularly salient psychosocial risk factor for poorer cognitive aging among non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic older adults. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).