Secular trends in cognitive trajectories of diverse older adults

INTRODUCTION: This study aimed to determine if later birth year influences trajectory of age-related cognitive decline across racial/ethnic groups and to test whether years of school, childhood socioeconomic status, and cardiovascular disease burden explain such secular trends.
METHODS: We compared cognitive trajectories of global cognition and subdomains in two successive racially/ethnically and educationally diverse birth cohorts of a prospective cohort study.
RESULTS: Later birth year was associated with higher initial cognitive levels for Whites and Blacks, but not Hispanics. Later birth year was also associated with less rapid rate of decline in all three racial/ethnic groups. More years of education, higher childhood socioeconomic status, and, to a smaller extent, greater cardiovascular disease burden accounted for higher intercepts in the later-born cohort, but did not account for attenuated slope of cognitive decline.
DISCUSSION: Later birth year is related to a slower rate of age-related decline in some cognitive domains in some racial/ethnic groups. Our analyses suggest that racial/ethnic and social inequalities are part of the mechanisms driving secular trends in cognitive aging and dementia.