Socioeconomic Inequalities in Cognitive Functioning Only to a Small Extent Attributable to Modifiable Health and Lifestyle Factors in Individuals Without Dementia
J Alzheimers Dis. 2022;90(4):1523-1534. doi: 10.3233/JAD-220474.
BACKGROUND: There are socioeconomic inequalities in dementia risk. Underlying pathways are not well known.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether modifiable health and lifestyle factors for brain health mediate the association of socioeconomic status (SES) and cognitive functioning in a population without dementia.
METHODS: The "LIfestyle for BRAin health" (LIBRA) score was computed for 6,203 baseline participants of the LIFE-Adult-Study. LIBRA predicts dementia in midlife and early late life, based on 12 modifiable factors. Associations of SES (education, net equivalence income, and occupational status) and LIBRA with cognitive functioning (composite score) were investigated using adjusted linear regression models. Bootstrapped structural equation modelling (SEM) was used to investigate whether LIBRA mediated the association of SES and cognitive functioning.
RESULTS: Participants were M = 57.4 (SD = 10.6, range: 40-79) years old; 50.3% were female. Both, SES (Wald: F(2)=52.5, p < 0.001) and LIBRA (Wald: F(1)=5.9, p < 0.05) were independently associated with cognitive functioning; there was no interaction (Wald: F(2)=2.9, p = 0.060). Lower SES and higher LIBRA scores indicated lower cognitive functioning. LIBRA partially mediated the association of SES and cognitive functioning (IE: =0.02, 95% CI [0.02, 0.03], p < 0.001). The proportion mediated was 12.7%.
CONCLUSION: Differences in cognitive functioning due to SES can be partially attributed to differences in modifiable health and lifestyle factors; but to a small extent. This suggests that lifestyle interventions could attenuate socioeconomic inequalities in cognitive functioning. However, directly intervening on the social determinants of health may yield greater benefits for dementia risk reduction.