At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) this year in Amsterdam, Netherlands, studies reported new findings that experiences of racism–in any form–are associated with lower memory and worse cognition in aging adults.
The studies, which were reported at AAIC 2022, included nearly 1,000 middle-aged, community-dwelling adults, 55% of whom were Latinx, 23% Black, and 19% White. Exposure to both interpersonal racism and institutional racism were associated with lower memory scores for these individuals.
“These associations were driven by Black individuals.” a press release from the conference noted. The press release also noted that “experiences of structural racism were associated with lower episodic memory among [all] racial and ethnic groups that were included in the study.”
Following the study of individuals totalling nearly 1,000 people, a smaller study was conducted on a group of 445 people, composed of Latino, Asian, Black, White and multiracial individuals aged 90 and above. The findings for this study were stated in the conference’s press release, saying “individuals who experienced wide-ranging discrimination throughout life had lower semantic memory in late life compared to those who experienced little to no discrimination.”
These two findings on the effects of multilevel racism were among some of the key points delivered at the conference this year.
“According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, Blacks are about twice as likely and Hispanic/Latinos are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias.” the press release for the conference stated.
Carl V. Hill, Ph.D, MPH, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at the Alzheimer’s Association then spoke on the topic. “In order to achieve health equity — as a step toward complete inclusion — individuals and society must identify and reduce racism and other forms of discrimination. We must create a society in which the underserved, disproportionately affected and underrepresented are safe, cared for and valued.” he said.
The AAIC also took time to showcase a second study on links between discrimination and Alzheimer’s, this one focused on a group referred to as the “oldest old” and even sometimes as “super agers”.
Among the 468 participants in this study, 14.5% of whom were Latino, the average age was 93. Research on the 468 participants showed that out of 3 separate groups, the second and third groups–comprised of White women, Asian, Black, and Latino populations–were more likely to have experienced discrimination and have worsening cognitive decline than that of their counterparts in the first group–comprised mostly of White men–who reported experiencing little descrimination throughout their lifetime.
Kristen George, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology in the Department of Public Health Sciences at University of California, Davis, and a researcher on this study briefly discussed what these results meant.
“These findings highlight that among the oldest old, inequities in cognitive function persist after accounting for experiences of major lifetime discrimination. Despite the incredible longevity of this group, discrimination has an indelible impact on cognitive health, and oldest old adults still stand to benefit from efforts to eliminate and redress health disparities.” George said.
From the Alzheimer’s Association: a few words and resources on and about the Alzheimer’s Association and AAIC directly from the Association
About the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® (AAIC®)
The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) is the world’s largest gathering of researchers from around the world focused on Alzheimer’s and other dementias. As a part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s research program, AAIC serves as a catalyst for generating new knowledge about dementia and fostering a vital, collegial research community.
AAIC 2023 home page: www.alz.org/aaic/
About the Alzheimer’s Association®
The Alzheimer’s Association is a worldwide voluntary health organization dedicated to Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to lead the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia®. Visit alz.org or call 800.272.3900.