Current evidence suggests that Black women face unique stressors due to being both a racial and gender minority. The discrimination and oppression Black women experience across both aspects of their social identity is thought to compound and negatively affect Black women’s health and mental wellbeing. To date, there are no studies that examine how this stress may impact Black women’s cognitive health as they age. Additionally, there has been little focus on identifying factors that may be protective and help to reduce the effects of stress, such as the approach to coping with stress.
This study seeks to address these gaps by examining the relationship between race and gender-based stress, psychological coping, gender and racial identity, and cognitive functioning. We will collect online survey data from a minimum of 200 Black American women aged 50 and older who do not have a history of dementia or neurological disorder. The survey will obtain information on participant’s demographics, coping style, experiences of gender and race-based stress across the lifetime, mood, and self-ratings of cognitive functioning. For a subset of 25 participants recruited through community partnerships, they will be invited to complete an in-person assessment of their cognitive functioning. Of this subset, ten Black women will complete individual qualitative interviews on their experiences of gendered racism and how they coped with these experiences. We will analyze the data to test the hypothesis that more experiences of gendered and race-based stress will predict a negative coping style, which in turn, will predict poorer cognitive functioning. We will also test the hypothesis that Black women who rate their race and gender as important elements of their identity will not experience the same negative consequences of stress on their cognitive health. Results of this study have the potential to identify social and society factors that put older Black women at risk for cognitive impairment, but will also leverage person-level factors that lessen the negative impact of stress. Additionally, this will serve as the groundwork for the development of a stress coping intervention designed specifically for Black women. Lastly, this work will challenge systems of oppression and discrimination that disadvantage Black women and negatively impact their brain health.