All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Michael Crowe

Advisory Committee Members

Virginia Wadley

Olivio J Clay

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2016

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

ABSTRACT Racial disparities on measures of cognitive performance are well-documented. The purpose of the current study was to examine education quality and health factors in explaining racial differences in cognitive performance. It was hypothesized that significant differences in test performance between African Americans and Caucasians would remain robust despite controlling for demographics. However, accounting for education quality and diabetes-related factors was expected to reduce racial differences to nonsignificance. Additionally, racial differences between objective test performance and subjective memory ratings were anticipated. The sample consisted of 247 older African American and Caucasian adults with diabetes in the Birmingham area. Participants completed telephone-based measures capturing information specific to demographics; quality of education (i.e., subjective reading ability, self-rated grade school quality, vocabulary, and numeracy); diabetes complications; diabetes duration; vascular comorbidity; depressive symptomatology (assessed with the Geriatric Depression Scale, GDS); and cognition (i.e., modified Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status, TICS-M; and Letter ‘F’ verbal fluency). Using two-tailed t-tests, African Americans performed significantly worse than Caucasians on attention, memory, and language subdomains of the TICS-M as well as verbal fluency, but not on TICS-M orientation. Hierarchical regression modeling showed racial differences in cognitive performance were eliminated after accounting for factors related to education quality. There was no significant interaction between race and objective memory performance in predicting subjective memory ratings. These findings indicate that variables other than race contribute to disparities in cognitive test performance and should be thoroughly considered. Future research is needed to understand the longitudinal interrelationship of race, diabetes, education quality, and cognitive impairment.

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