Associations between Neighborhood Park Access and Longitudinal Change in Cognition in Older Adults: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

Lilah M. Besser, Lun Ching Chang, Kelly R. Evenson, Jana A. Hirsch, Yvonne L. Michael, James E. Galvin, Stephen R. Rapp, Annette L. Fitzpatrick, Susan R. Heckbert, Joel D. Kaufman, Timothy M. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Preliminary evidence suggests associations between neighborhood park access and better late-life cognition and reduced Alzheimer's disease (AD) risk. Objective: Examine associations between neighborhood park access and longitudinal change in cognition among U.S. older adults without dementia. Methods: We used 2000-2018 observational data from the population-based, multi-site Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (n = 1,733). Measures included proportion of neighborhood park space (park access), distance to nearest park, and 6-year dichotomous and continuous change in scores on the Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument (CASI; global cognition) and Digit Symbol Coding task (processing speed). Multivariable random intercept models tested main associations and mediation by depressive symptoms, physical activity, and PM2.5 exposure. Effect modification by race (African Americans/Blacks versus Whites) was tested using interaction terms. Results: Greater park access (equivalent to 10%more in 1/2-mile around home) was associated with maintained/improved CASI score over six years independent of several covariates including individual- and neighborhood-level socioeconomic status (Odds ratio: 1.04; 95%confidence interval: 1.00-1.08). No other associations were observed with the dichotomous or continuous measures of cognitive change and no mediators were found. While a borderline association was seen between greater park access and maintained/improved CASI for African Americans/Blacks but not for Whites, effect modification was not confirmed by testing interaction terms. Conclusion: Neighborhood park access may help maintain/improve late-life global cognition. However, our findings need replication in other population-based studies and regions. Additionally, studies are needed to determine if associations between park access and change in cognition vary by race/ethnicity to inform intervention efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-233
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • cognition
  • environment
  • epidemiology
  • lifestyle
  • residence characteristics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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