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Association of Education With Dementia Incidence Stratified by Ethnicity and Nativity in a Cohort of Older Asian American Individuals

High education protects against dementia, but returns on educational attainment may be different across sociodemographic groups owing to various social factors. Asian American individuals are a growing and diverse group, but little research has assessed dementia determinants in this population. To examine the association of education with dementia in a large cohort of Asian American individuals, stratifying by ethnicity and nativity. This cohort study used electronic health record (EHR) and survey data from the Research Program on Genes, Environment, and Health and the California Men’s Health Study surveys (2002-2020). Data are from Kaiser Permanente Northern California, an integrated health care delivery system. This study used a volunteer sample who completed the surveys. Participants included Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese individuals who were aged 60 to less than 90 years without a dementia diagnosis in the EHR at the time of the survey (baseline) and who had 2 years of health plan coverage before baseline. Data analysis was performed from December 2021 to December 2022. The main exposure was educational attainment (college degree or higher vs less than a college degree), and the main stratification variables were Asian ethnicity and nativity (born in the US or born outside the US). The primary outcome was incident dementia diagnosis in the EHR. Dementia incidence rates were estimated by ethnicity and nativity, and Cox proportional hazards and Aalen additive hazards models were fitted for the association of college degree or higher vs less than a college degree with time to dementia, adjusting for age (timescale), sex, nativity, and an interaction between nativity and college degree. Among 14 749 individuals, the mean (SD) age at baseline was 70.6 (7.3) years, 8174 (55.4%) were female, and 6931 (47.0%) had attained a college degree. Overall, among individuals born in the US, those with a college degree had 12% lower dementia incidence (HR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.75-1.03) compared with those without at least a college degree, although the confidence interval included the null. The HR for individuals born outside the US was 0.82 (95% CI, 0.72-0.92; P = .46 for the college degree by nativity interaction). The findings were similar across ethnicity and nativity groups except for Japanese individuals born outside the US. These findings suggest that college degree attainment was associated with lower dementia incidence, with similar associations across nativity. More work is needed to understand determinants of dementia in Asian American individuals and to elucidate mechanisms linking educational attainment and dementia.

Authors: Hayes-Larson, Eleanor; Ikesu, Ryo; Fong, Joseph; Mobley, Taylor M; Gee, Gilbert C; Brookmeyer, Ron; Whitmer, Rachel A; Gilsanz, Paola; Mayeda, Elizabeth Rose

JAMA Netw Open. 2023 Mar 01;6(3):e231661. Epub 2023-03-01.

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