In the United States, racial and ethnic disparities in memory dysfunction and Alzheimer disease are evident even after accounting for many risk factors. Psychological factors, such as psychological well‐being, perceived control, depressive symptoms, and negative affect, may influence memory dysfunction, and associations may differ by race and ethnicity. This study examined whether psychological factors are differentially associated with episodic memory trajectories across racial and ethnic groups in the United States.
The National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), is a US‐representative, longitudinal study of Medicare‐eligible adults 65+ years old. Analyses of 5 years of data, included a total of 9411 participants without dementia at baseline. Adjusting for relevant covariates, a linear mixed model estimated the associations between psychological predictors and a composite of immediate and delayed trials from a word list memory test.
More depressive symptoms (B = −0.02), lower psychological well‐being (B = 0.03), and lower perceived control (B = 0.05) were independently associated with lower initial memory. Depressive symptoms were associated with faster rate of memory decline (B = −0.01). Black (B = −0.34) and Hispanic (B = −0.28) participants evidenced lower initial memory level than whites, but only Hispanic (B = −0.04) participants evidenced faster memory decline than whites. There were no significant interactions between the psychological variables and race and ethnicity.
Results extend previous studies showing racial and ethnic disparities in episodic memory trajectories, and the longitudinal effects of depressive symptoms on episodic memory in US samples. Epidemiological studies of cognitive aging should incorporate more psychological factors clarify cognitive decline and disparities.