How do health and biological age influence chronological age and sex differences in cognitive aging: moderating, mediating, or both?

Psychol Aging. 2006 Jun;21(2):318-32. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.21.2.318.


Much research on cognitive competence in normal older adults has documented age and sex differences. The authors used new cross-sectional data from the Victoria Longitudinal Study (VLS) (n=386; age 61 to 95 years) to examine how health and biological age influence age and sex differences in cognitive aging. The authors found evidence for both moderating and mediating influences. Age differences were moderated by health status, such that the negative effects of age were most pronounced among participants of relatively better health. Sex differences were moderated by health and were more pronounced among participants reporting comparatively poorer health. Although health mediated a notable amount of age-related cognitive variation, BioAge mediated considerably more variance, even after statistical control for differences in health. A complex pattern emerged for the mediation of sex differences: Although BioAge accounted for sex-related variation in cognitive performance, health operated to suppress these differences. Overall, both health and BioAge predicted cognitive variation independently of chronological age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Behavior
  • Speech
  • Thinking