Cognitive Decline and Literacy among Ethnically Diverse Elders

Manly, Jennifer J.; Schupf, Nicole; Tang, Mingxin; Stern, Yaakov

Researchers on genetic and environmental influences on risk for Alzheimer’s disease must be prepared for the growing ethnic and racial diversity of our participants. Within the investigation, years of education has typically served as a proxy for cognitive reserve, which may be one factor in influencing risk of cognitive decline among aging people. However, among ethnic minorities, years of education is a poor reflection of the value of educational experience and native ability. This study was conducted among 1002 ethnically diverse English-speaking residents of Northern Manhattan who were cognitively and functionally normal at a baseline evaluation. We found that literacy level was a better predictor of decline in memory, executive function, and language skills than was years of education. The results of this study suggest that in an ethnically diverse cohort, literacy level should be considered as a mediator of the interactions of biological and environmental factors on cognitive decline.


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Journal of Geriatic Psychiatry & Neurology

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February 22, 2018