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Effects of early-life adversity on cognitive decline in older African Americans and whites

Publication Abstract

Barnes, L., R. Wilson, S. Everson-Rose, M. Hayward, D. Evans, and Carlos Mendes de Leon. 2012. "Effects of early-life adversity on cognitive decline in older African Americans and whites." Neurology, 79(24): 2321-2327.

Objectives: Early-life adversity is related to adult health in old age but little is known about its relation with cognitive decline. Methods: Participants included more than 6,100 older residents (mean age = 74.9 [7.1] years; 61.8% African American) enrolled in the Chicago Health and Aging Project, a geographically defined, population-based study of risk factors for Alzheimer disease. Participants were interviewed at approximately 3-year intervals for up to 16 years. The interview included a baseline evaluation of early-life adversity, and administration of 4 brief cognitive function tests to assess change in cognitive function. We estimated the relation of early-life adversity to rate of cognitive decline in a series of mixed-effects models. Results: In models stratified by race, and adjusted for age and sex, early-life adversity was differentially related to decline in African Americans and whites. Whereas no measure of early-life adversity related to cognitive decline in whites, both food deprivation and being thinner than average in early life were associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline in African Americans. The relations were not mediated by years of education and persisted after adjustment for cardiovascular factors. Conclusions: Markers of early-life adversity had an unexpected protective effect on cognitive decline in African Americans. Neurology (R) 2012;79:2321-2327

DOI:10.1212/WNL.0b013e318278b607 (Full Text)

PMCID: PMC3578376. (Pub Med Central)

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