Factors associated with healthy aging in Latin American populations
Nat Med. 2023 Aug 10. doi: 10.1038/s41591-023-02495-1. Online ahead of print.
Latin American populations may present patterns of sociodemographic, ethnic and cultural diversity that can defy current universal models of healthy aging. The potential combination of risk factors that influence aging across populations in Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries is unknown. Compared to other regions where classical factors such as age and sex drive healthy aging, higher disparity-related factors and between-country variability could influence healthy aging in LAC countries. We investigated the combined impact of social determinants of health (SDH), lifestyle factors, cardiometabolic factors, mental health symptoms and demographics (age, sex) on healthy aging (cognition and functional ability) across LAC countries with different levels of socioeconomic development using cross-sectional and longitudinal machine learning models (n = 44,394 participants). Risk factors associated with social and health disparities, including SDH (β > 0.3), mental health (β > 0.6) and cardiometabolic risks (β > 0.22), significantly influenced healthy aging more than age and sex (with null or smaller effects: β < 0.2). These heterogeneous patterns were more pronounced in low-income to middle-income LAC countries compared to high-income LAC countries (cross-sectional comparisons), and in an upper-income to middle-income LAC country, Costa Rica, compared to China, a non-upper-income to middle-income LAC country (longitudinal comparisons). These inequity-associated and region-specific patterns inform national risk assessments of healthy aging in LAC countries and regionally tailored public health interventions.