Health and Social Correlates of Dementia in Oldest‐Old Mexican‐Origin Populations

The number of oldest‐old, that is, persons at least 85 years of age, in Mexico and the United States, is projected to roughly triple by 2050. The increase of the oldest‐old will lead to a rise in the number of individuals with dementia on both sides of the United States–Mexico border. Mexican‐origin people in both nations are expected to experience disproportionate increases in Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD) given low socioeconomic status and rapid expansion of the aging segment in the coming decades. In Mexico, global prevalence of dementia has been higher among women and persons at least 80 years of age. The National Plans to Address Alzheimer’s Disease launched in Mexico in 2014 and the United States in 2012 seek to address challenges associated with a sharp increase in dementia syndrome cases, including research about preventing, delaying, or managing ADRD. There are substantial gaps in research across ethnic and racial populations, and particularly among the oldest‐old.

Social determinants of health are associated with cognitive status across the life course and with dementia. In the United States and Mexico health inequalities are highly prevalent in both societies. Social determinants affecting those of Mexican origin include low literacy, reduced access to health services, rurality; migration selection factors; indoor and outdoor contamination; socioeconomic disadvantages; and depression, which can adversely affect cognitive functioning and represent a global research challenge for research and intervention development.

Even though previous studies have analyzed predictors of cognitive impairment among Mexicans and Mexican Americans, they have not focused on the oldest‐old. One study by Downer et al. for Mexican Americans 75 or older found that age, functional impairment, and depressive symptoms were associated with severe cognitive decline; and educational attainment with maintenance of high cognition or slight cognitive decline.

Accordingly, this is the first study that seeks to identify health and social correlates of likely dementia among Mexican and Mexican Americans older adults aged 82 and over, using cross‐sectional data from the Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS) and Hispanic Established Populations for the Epidemiologic Study of the Elderly (HEPESE) collected between 2012 and 2013. Comparative research about ethnically similar aging populations in different societies at the same point in time has value for understanding how social and cultural factors are related to cognitive aging in binational contexts. Such work can yield insights on specific factors relevant for informal and formal institutions that provide support for dementia care. Implications of our study will lay the foundation for cross‐national longitudinal studies on cognitive changes of the oldest‐old.

The full study can be found here.