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Ailshire, Jennifer, and Philippa J. Clarke. Online Access 2014. "Fine Particulate Matter Air Pollution and Cognitive Function Among U.S. Older Adults." Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, .
Researchers have increasing interest in how neighborhood exposures relate to well-being. The goal of this study is to determine if neighborhood-level exposure to fine particulate matter air pollution (PM2.5) is associated with cognitive function in a diverse, national sample of older U.S. adults. We use cross-sectional data on non-Hispanic black and white men and women aged 55 and older from the 2001/2002 ACL. EPA air monitoring data were linked to respondents using census tract identifiers. Cognitive function was assessed with tests of working memory and orientation. Negative binomial regression models were used to examine the association between PM2.5 and the number of errors on the cognitive assessment.
We found that older adults living in areas with high concentrations of PM2.5 had an error rate on the cognition test that was 1.5 times greater than those exposed to lower concentrations, net of individual and neighborhood-level demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. This study adds to a growing body of research demonstrating the importance of air pollution to cognitive function in older adults. Improvements to air quality may be an important mechanism for reducing age-related cognitive decline.
Country of focus: United States.