What is the association between adverse childhood experiences and late-life cognitive decline? Study of Healthy Aging in African Americans (STAR) cohort study

Yi Lor, Kristen M. George, Paola Gilsanz, Claire C. Meunier, Rachel L. Peterson, Eleanor Hayes-Larson, Lisa L. Barnes, Dan Mungas, Rachel A. Whitmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objectives Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with higher risk of chronic disease, but little is known about the association with late life cognitive decline. We examined the longitudinal association between ACEs and late-life cognitive decline in the Study of Healthy Aging in African Americans (STAR). Design Linear mixed models with random intercepts and slope examined the association of individual and composite ACEs with cognitive change adjusting for years from baseline (timescale), baseline age, sex, parental education, childhood socioeconomic status and childhood social support. Participants reported whether they had experienced nine types of ACEs. Executive function and verbal episodic memory were measured up to three times over a 3-year period using the Spanish and English Neuropsychological Assessment Scales. Settings Kaiser Permanente Northern California members living in the Bay Area. Participants STAR is a cohort study of cognitive ageing launched in 2018 that has enrolled 764 black Americans ages ≥50 years (mean age=67.5; SD=8.5). Results Twenty-one per cent of participants reported no ACEs, 24% one ACE, 20% two ACEs, 17% three ACEs and 17% four or more ACEs. Compared with no ACEs, two ACEs (β=0.117; 95% CI 0.052 to 0.182), three ACEs (β=0.075; 95% CI 0.007 to 0.143) and four or more ACEs (β=0.089; 95% CI 0.002 to 0.158) were associated with less decline in executive function. There were no significant associations between number of ACEs and baseline or longitudinal verbal episodic memory or between individual ACEs and executive function or verbal episodic memory. Conclusion In this cohort of older black Americans, there was no association between ACEs and baseline cognition or cognitive change in verbal episodic memory; however, experiencing ≥ 2 ACEs was associated with less decline in executive function. These results may indicate that participants who survived to age 50+ and experienced ACEs may have cognitive resilience that warrants further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere072961
JournalBMJ Open
Volume13
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2 2023

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