Lifecourse Pathways to Racial Disparities in Cognitive Impairment among Elderly Americans

Zhenmei Zhang, Michigan State University
Yan-Liang Yu, Michigan State University

It was estimated that among those aged 71 years and older, Blacks were approximately two times more likely to have dementia than Whites. Despite developments in understanding risk factors associated with cognitive impairment and dementia in recent years, very few population-level studies have investigated the origins and mechanisms through which the racial gap in cognitive impairment is produced. In this study, using data from 7 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (1998-2010), we analyzed how racial differences in cognitive impairment are tied to the racial stratification of childhood resources and health, adult health, health behaviors, and socioeconomic achievement in adulthood among 9044 non-Hispanic Whites and Blacks aged 65 and older in 1998. Our preliminary results showed that older Blacks were significantly more likely to suffer from cognitive impairment than Whites at baseline and during the 12-year follow-up. Childhood conditions as well as adult socioeconomic achievement played important roles in accounting for racial disparities in cognitive impairment.

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Presented in Poster Session 7