Socioeconomic Status and Neuropsychological Functioning: Associations in an Ethnically Diverse HIV+ Cohort

Clin Neuropsychol. 2015;29(2):232-54. doi: 10.1080/13854046.2015.1029974. Epub 2015 Apr 14.


Objective: There is limited research examining the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and neuropsychological functioning, particularly in racial/ethnic minority and HIV+ populations. However, there are complex associations between poverty, education, HIV disease, race/ethnicity, and health outcomes in the US.

Method: We explored these relationships among an ethnically diverse sample of 134 HIV+ adults using a standardized SES measure (i.e., the Hollingshead scale), a comprehensive NP test battery, and a functional evaluation (i.e., Patient's Assessment of Own Functioning Inventory and Modified Instrumental Activities of Daily Living Scale).

Results: Bivariate analyses showed that adult SES was significantly, positively correlated with neuropsychological performance on specific tests within the domains of verbal fluency, attention/concentration, learning, memory, processing speed, and executive functioning, and childhood SES was significantly linked to measures of verbal fluency, processing speed, and executive functioning. In a series of linear regressions, controlling for SES significantly attenuated group differences in NP test scores between racial/ethnic minority individuals and non-Hispanic White individuals. Finally, SES scores significantly differed across HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND) diagnoses. In a binary logistic regression, SES was the only independent predictor of HAND diagnosis.

Conclusions: HIV+ individuals with lower SES may be more vulnerable to HIV-associated neuropsychological sequelae due to prominent health disparities, although the degree to which this is influenced by factors such as test bias remains unclear. Overall, our results suggest that SES is significantly linked to neuropsychological test performance in HIV+ individuals, and is an important factor to consider in clinical practice.

Keywords: HIV; Health disparities.; Neuropsychology; Socioeconomic status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Cohort Studies
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Executive Function
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / physiopathology
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • HIV Seropositivity / physiopathology*
  • HIV Seropositivity / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Minority Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Social Class*
  • Verbal Learning
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult