Change of cognitive function in U.S. Chinese older adults: A population-based study

Lydia W. Li, Ding Ding, Bei Wu, Xinqi Dong

Publication Date: 07/01/2017

Background: This study aims to assess cognitive change in a 2-year period among U.S. Chinese older adults and examine sociodemographic characteristics associated with the change.

Methods: Data were from the Population Study of Chinese Elderly (PINE) in which 2,713 participants (aged 60 and older) received in-home interviews at both the baseline and 2-year follow-up. A battery of cognitive tests that assessed episodic memory, working memory, perceptual speed, and overall cognitive status were administered in both times. A composite global cognition was constructed using all tests. Mixed-effect regression was conducted.

Results: Older age was associated with worse baseline cognition (ie, in all cognitive abilities) and faster decline in global cognition, episodic memory, and perceptual speed—rates of decline increased by .006, .004, and .009 standard score units, respectively, for each year older. More education was associated with better baseline cognition, but each year of additional schooling increased rates of decline in global cognition and episodic memory by .004 and .012 standard score units, respectively. Men performed better than women in most cognitive abilities at baseline but had faster rates of decline in working memory. Higher income was associated with better cognition at baseline and reduced rates of decline in working memory.

Conclusions: Findings suggest differences in the rates of cognitive change by age, sex, education, and income. Those in advancing age are vulnerable to cognitive decline. The effects of education and sex on baseline performance versus change suggest a role for life experiences in cognition.