Bridging life course socioeconomic status and memory: The role of inflammation


Reason, Max; Yang, Y. Claire; Johnson, Moira; Chen, Minne; & Harris, Kathleen (2018). Bridging life course socioeconomic status and memory: The role of inflammation. Alzheimer's & Dementia.


Background The negative association between socioeconomic status (SES) and memory functioning has been previously documented (Hackman et al. 2015). Additional research has found that inflammation may play a role in poor memory functioning, though research has been limited to small samples of older adults (Silverman et al. 2009, Bettcher et al. 2012). Given the known, negative association between SES and inflammation (Deverts et al. 2012), this study investigates the mediating role of inflammation in the link between SES and memory in a large, diverse sample of US adults. Methods Data for the study were compiled from three nationally representative datasets, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), Midlife in the United States (MIDUS), and the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS). We used an innovative study design that pools individual records from the three datasets and harmonizes all measures used in the analysis. Combining all three datasets allowed us to investigate the relationship between life-course SES, inflammation, and memory across all ages of adulthood (24-100 years old). Within the sample (n=13,329), life course SES was measured by both the respondent’s and the respondent’s parents highest level of education. Inflammation was measured by levels of High Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hsCRP) collected through blood samples. Memory was measured by both immediate and delayed word recall tasks. Models also included several control variables know to be associated with these three focal measures. Results OLS regression models showed a negative correlation between high hsCRP (>3mg/l) and performance on both word recall tasks, net of all control variables. However, because the coefficients for SES were not greatly affected when hsCRP was included in the model, the hypothesized mediating role of inflammation was not supported. The evidence of a correlation between inflammation and memory in a large, diverse sample however, is a novel finding. Conclusions Using a large, diverse sample of individuals across all ages of the adult life course, this study found a negative association between inflammation and memory. This finding provides epidemiological support for what has previously only been documented only in small, clinical samples of older adults.


Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

Alzheimer's & Dementia


Reason, Max
Yang, Y. Claire
Johnson, Moira
Chen, Minne
Harris, Kathleen

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