Medical and Social Determinants of Brain Health and Dementia in a Multicultural Community Cohort of Older Adults

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Background: Socioeconomic status (SES), race, ethnicity, and medical comorbidities may contribute to Alzheimer's disease and related disorders (ADRD) health disparities. Objective: Analyze effects of social and medical determinants on cognition in 374 multicultural older adults participating in a community-based dementia screening program. Methods: We used the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) and AD8 as measures of cognition, and a 3-way race/ethnicity variable (White, African American, Hispanic) and SES (Hollingshead index) as predictors. Potential contributors to health disparities included: age, sex, education, total medical comorbidities, health self-ratings, and depression. We applied K-means cluster analyses to study medical and social dimension effects on cognitive outcomes. Results: African Americans and Hispanics had lower SES status and cognitive performance compared with similarly aged Whites. We defined three clusters based on age and SES. Cluster #1 and #3 differed by SES but not age, while cluster #2 was younger with midlevel SES. Cluster #1 experienced the worse health outcomes while cluster #3 had the best health outcomes. Within each cluster, White participants had higher SES and better health outcomes, African Americans had the worst physical performance, and Hispanics had the most depressive symptoms. In cross-cluster comparisons, higher SES led to better health outcomes for all participants. Conclusion: SES may contribute to disparities in access to healthcare services, while race and ethnicity may contribute to disparities in the quality and extent of services received. Our study highlights the need to critically address potential interactions between race, ethnicity, and SES which may better explain disparities in ADRD health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1563-1576
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • brain health
  • cognitive impairment
  • dementia
  • ethnicity
  • health disparities
  • race
  • socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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