Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-xm8r8 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-19T03:57:34.308Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Positive Psychosocial Factors and Cognition in Ethnically Diverse Older Adults

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 September 2017

Laura B. Zahodne*
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Caitlin W.-M. Watson
University of California, San Diego, California
Sonia Seehra
Columbia University, New York, New York
Michelle N. Martinez
Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Laura B. Zahodne, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. E-mail:


Objectives: Cross-sectional and longitudinal evidence from largely non-Hispanic White cohorts suggests that positive psychosocial factors, particularly self-efficacy and social support, may protect against late-life cognitive decline. Identifying potentially protective factors in racial/ethnic minority elders is of high importance due to their increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The overall goal of this study was to characterize cross-sectional associations between positive psychosocial factors and cognitive domains among Black, Hispanic, and White older adults. Methods: A total of 548 older adults (41% Black, 28% Hispanic, 31% White) in the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project completed cognitive and psychosocial measures from the NIH Toolbox and standard neuropsychological tests. Multiple-group regressions were used to compare cross-sectional associations between positive psychosocial factors and cognition across racial/ethnic groups, independent of demographics, depressive symptoms, and physical health. Results: Positive associations between self-efficacy and language did not significantly differ across race/ethnicity, although the bivariate association between self-efficacy and language was not significant among Hispanics. Additional positive associations were observed for Whites and Blacks, but not Hispanics. Negative associations between emotional support and purpose in life and working memory were seen only in Hispanics. Conclusions: Results confirm and extend the link between self-efficacy and cognition in late life, particularly for White and Black older adults. Previous studies on positive psychosocial factors in cognitive aging may not be generalizable to Hispanics. Longitudinal follow-up is needed to determine whether negative relationships between certain psychosocial factors and cognition in Hispanics reflect reverse causation, threshold effects, and/or negative aspects of having a strong social network. (JINS, 2018, 24, 294–304)

Research Articles
Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2017 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Aday, L. (2001). At risk in America. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
Bandura, A. (1989). Regulation of cognitive processes through perceived self-efficacy. Developmental Psychology, 25, 729735.Google Scholar
Barnes, L.L., Mendes de Leon, C.F., Wilson, R.S., Bienias, J.L., & Evans, D.A. (2004). Social resources and cognitive decline in a population of older African Americans and whites. Neurology, 63, 23222326.Google Scholar
Benton, A.L. (1955). The Visual Retention Test. New York: The Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
Bolger, N., & Amarel, D. (2007). Effects of social support visibility on adjustment to stress: experimental evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 458475.Google Scholar
Bonomi, A.E., Cella, D.F., Hahn, E.A., Bjordal, K., Sperner-Unterweger, B., Gangeri, L., & Zittoun, R. (1996). Multilingual translation of the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT) quality of life measurement system. Quality of Life Research, 5, 309320.Google Scholar
Boyle, P.A., Buchman, A.S., Barnes, L.L., & Bennett, D.A. (2010). Effect of a purpose in life on risk of incident Alzheimer disease and mild cognitive impairment in community-dwelling older persons. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67, 304310.Google Scholar
Buschke, H., & Fuld, P.A. (1974). Evaluating storage, retention, and retrieval in disordered memory and learning. Neurology, 24, 10191025.Google Scholar
Carretti, B., Borella, E., Zavagnin, M., & De Beni, R. (2011). Impact of metacognition and motivation on the efficacy of strategic memory training in older adults: Analysis of specific, transfer, and maintenance effects. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 52, 192197.Google Scholar
Casaletto, K.B., Umlauf, A., Marquine, M., Beaumont, J.L., Mungas, D., Gershon, R., & Heaton, R.K. (2016). Demographically corrected normative standards for the Spanish language version of the NIH Toolbox cognition battery. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 22, 364374.Google Scholar
Del Ser, T., Gonzálex-Montalvo, J.I., Martínez-Espinosa, S., Delgado-Villapalos, C., & Bermejo, F. (1997). Estimation of premorbid intelligence in Spanish people with the Word Accentuation Test and its application to the diagnosis of dementia. Brain and Cognition, 33, 343356.Google Scholar
Díaz-Venegas, C., Downer, B., Langa, K.M., & Wong, R. (2016). Racial and ethnic differences in cognitive function among older adults in the USA. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 31, 10041012.Google Scholar
Ellwardt, L., Aartsen, M., Deeg, D., & Steverink, N. (2013). Does loneliness mediate the relation between social support and cognitive functioning in later life? Social Science and Medicine, 98, 11161124.Google Scholar
Eremenco, S.L., Cella, D., & Arnold, B.J. (2005). A comprehensive method for the translation and cross-cultural validation of health status questionnaires. Evaluation & the Health Professions, 28, 212232.Google Scholar
Gallo, L.C., & Matthews, K.A. (2003). Understanding the association between socioeconomic status and physical health: do negative emotions play a role? Psychological Bulletin, 129, 1051.Google Scholar
Gallo, L.C., Penedo, F.J., Espinosa de los Monteros, K., & Arguelles, W. (2009). Resiliency in the face of disadvantage: do Hispanic cultural characteristics protect health outcomes? Journal of Personality, 77, 17071736.Google Scholar
Giles, L.C., Anstey, K.J., Walker, R.B., & Luszcz, M.A. (2012). Social networks and memory over 15 years of follow up in a cohort of older Australians: results from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Journal of Aging Research, 856048, 1e7.Google Scholar
Glei, D.A., Landau, D.A., Goldman, N., Chuang, Y.L., Rodriguez, G., & Weinstein, M. (2005). Participating in social activities helps preserve cognitive function: An analysis of a longitudinal, population-based study of the elderly. International Journal of Epidemiology, 34, 864871.Google Scholar
Hollinger, K.R., Franke, C., Arenivas, A., Woods, S.R., Mealy, M.A., Levy, M., & Kaplin, A.I. (2016). Cognition, mood, and purpose in life in neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder. Journal of the Neurological Sciences, 362, 8590.Google Scholar
Kats, D., Patel, M.D., Palta, P., Meyer, M.L., Gross, A.L., Whitsel, E.A., & Heiss, G. (2016). Social support and cognition in a community-based cohort: The Atheroschlerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. Age and Ageing, 45, 475480.Google Scholar
Lӧvdén, M., Ghisletta, P., & Lindenberger, U. (2005). Social participation attenuates decline in perceptual speed in old and very old age. Psychology and Aging, 20, 423434.Google Scholar
Manly, J.J., Bell-McGinty, S., Tang, M.-X., Schupf, N., Stern, Y., & Mayeux, R. (2005). Implementing diagnostic criteria and estimating frequency of mild cognitive impairment in an urban community. Archives of Neurology, 62, 17391746.Google Scholar
Marin, G., & Marin, B.V. (1991). Research with Hispanic populations. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
Mattis, S. (Ed.) (1976). Mental status examination for organic mental syndrome in the elderly patient. New York: Grune & Stratton.Google Scholar
Melchior, M., Berkman, L.F., Niedhammer, I., Chea, M., & Goldberg, M. (2003). Social relations and self-reported health: A prospective analysis of the French Gazel cohort. Social Science & Medicine, 56, 18171830.Google Scholar
Pillemer, S.C., & Holtzer, R. (2016). The differential relationships of dimensions of perceived social support with cognitive function among older adults. Aging and Mental Health, 20, 727735.Google Scholar
Rosen, W. (1981). The Rosen Drawing Test. Bronx, NY: Veterans Administration Medical Center.Google Scholar
Salsman, J.M., Butt, Z., Pilkonis, P.A., Cyranowski, J.M., Zill, N., Hendrie, H.C., & Cella, D. (2013). Emotion assessment using the NIH Toolbox. Neurology, 80, S76S86.Google Scholar
Seeman, T., McAvay, G., Merrill, S., Albert, M., & Rodin, J. (1996). Self-efficacy beliefs and change in cognitive performance: MacArthur Studies of Successful Aging. Psychology and Aging, 11, 538551.Google Scholar
Seeman, T.E., Lusignolo, T.M., Albert, M., & Berkman, L. (2001). Social relationships, social support, and patterns of cognitive aging in healthy, high-functioning older adults: MacArthur Studies of Successful Aging. Health Psychology, 20, 243255.Google Scholar
Siedlecki, K.L., Manly, J.J., Brickman, A.M., Schupf, N., Tang, M.X., & Stern, Y. (2010). Do neuropsychological tests have the same meaning in Spanish speakers as they do in English speakers? Neuropsychology, 24, 402411.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Silverstein, M., Chen, X., & Heller, K. (1996). Too much of a good thing? Intergenerational social support and the psychological well-being of older parents. Journal of Marriage and Family, 58, 970982.Google Scholar
Stern, Y., Andrews, H., Pittman, J., Sano, M., Tatemichi, T., Lantigua, R., & Mayeux, R. (1992). Diagnosis of dementia in a heterogeneous population. Development of a neuropsychological paradigm-based diagnosis of dementia and quantified correction for the effects of education. Archives of Neurology, 49, 453460.Google Scholar
Tang, M.-X., Cross, P., Andrews, H., Jacobs, D.M., Small, S., Bell, K., & Mayeux, R. (2001). Incidence of AD in African-Americans, Caribbean Hispanics, and Caucasians in northern Manhattan. Neurology, 56, 4956.Google Scholar
Taylor, R.J., Chatters, L.M., Toler Woodward, A., & Brown, E. (2013). Racial and ethnic differences in extended family, friendship, fictive kin and congregational informal support networks. Family Relations, 62, 609624.Google Scholar
U.S. Census Bureau. (2004). U.S. interim projections by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin. Retrieved from Google Scholar
Weintraub, S., Dikmen, S.S., Heaton, R.K., Tulsky, D.S., Zelazo, P.D., Bauer, P.J., & . . . Gershon, R.C. (2013). Cognition assessment using the NIH Toolbox. Neurology, 80, S54S64.Google Scholar
Wilson, R.S., Boyle, P.A., Segawa, E., Yu, L., Begeny, C.T., Anagnos, S.E., & Bennett, D.A. (2013). The influence of cognitive decline on well-being in old age. Psychology and Aging, 28, 304313.Google Scholar
Wright, R.A., & Dismukes, A. (1995). Cardiovascular effects of experimentally induced efficacy (ability) appraisals at low and high levels of avoidant task demand. Psychophysiology, 32, 172176.Google Scholar
Zahodne, L.B., Meyer, O.L., Choi, E., Thomas, M.L., Willis, S.L., Marsiske, M., & . . . Parisi, J.M. (2015). External locus of control contributes to racial disparities in memory and reasoning training gains in ACTIVE. Psychology & Aging, 30, 561572.Google Scholar
Zahodne, L.B., Nowinski, C., Gershon, R., & Manly, J.J. (2014). Which psychosocial factors best predict cognitive performance in older adults? Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 20, 487495.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Zahodne et al. supplementary material

Tables S1-S3

Download Zahodne et al. supplementary material(File)
File 39.4 KB