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

Lisa L. Barnes, Robert S. Wilson, Susan A. Everson-Rose, Mark D. Hayward, Denis A. Evans, Carlos F.Mendes De Leon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Objectives: Early-life adversity is related to adult health in old age but little is known about its relation with cognitive decline. Methods: Participants includedmore than 6,100 older residents (mean age574.9 [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-effectsmodels. Results: Inmodels stratified by race, and adjusted for age and sex, early-life adversitywas 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2321-2327
Number of pages7
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 11 2012

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