Acculturation in Context: The Relationship Between Acculturation and Socioenvironmental Factors With Level of and Change in Cognition in Older Latinos

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2021 Mar 14;76(4):e129-e139. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbaa156.


Objectives: Latinos are 1.5 times as likely to develop Alzheimer's dementia as non-Latino Whites. This health disparity may arise from multiple influences with culturally relevant factors receiving increasing attention. Models of acculturation stress the importance of considering acculturation-related factors within the context of socioenvironmental factors to better capture the Latino experience in the United States.

Methods: We measured 10 acculturation and contextually-related variables in 199 Latinos (age 69.7 years) without dementia participating in Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center studies. We tested the relationship between these variables via Principal Component Analysis (PCA), then investigated how resulting components associated with level of and longitudinal change in global and domain-specific cognition using separate linear mixed-effects models adjusted for relevant confounders and their interactions with time.

Results: The PCA revealed a 3-factor unrotated solution (variance explained ~70%). Factor 1, representing acculturation-related aspects of nativity, language- and social-based acculturation, was positively associated with level, but not change, in global cognition, semantic memory, and perceptual speed. Factor 2, representing contextually-related socioenvironmental experiences of discrimination, social isolation, and social networks, was negatively associated with level of global cognition, episodic and working memory, and faster longitudinal decline in visuospatial ability. Factor 3 (familism only) did not associate with level or change in any cognitive outcome.

Discussion: Acculturation- and contextually-related factors differentiated from each other and differentially contributed to cognition and cognitive decline in older Latinos. Providers should query acculturation and lived experiences when evaluating cognition in older Latinos.

Keywords: Acculturation; Memory; Social interaction; Working memory.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation*
  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease* / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease* / ethnology
  • Alzheimer Disease* / psychology
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Mental Status and Dementia Tests / statistics & numerical data*
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment*
  • Social Interaction / ethnology*
  • Spatial Processing
  • United States / epidemiology