Evaluating interpersonal discrimination and depressive symptoms as partial mediators of the effects of education on cognition: Evidence from the Study of Healthy Aging in African Americans (STAR)


Cintron, D.W., Calmasini, C., Barnes, L.L., Mungas, D.M., Whitmer, R.A., Eng, C.W., Gilsanz, P., George, K.M., Peterson, R.L., & Glymour, M.M.


1 February 2023

Publication details

Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 1.



Education is correlated with positive health outcomes, but associations are sometimes weaker among African Americans. The extent to which exposure to discrimination and depressive symptoms attenuates the education-cognition link has not been investigated. Study of Healthy Aging in African Americans (STAR) participants (n = 764; average age 69 years) completed the Spanish and English Neuropsychological Assessment Scales. We assessed everyday and major lifetime discrimination and depressive symptoms as mediators of education effects on cognition using G-estimation with measurement error corrections. Education was correlated with greater major lifetime and everyday discrimination but lower depressive symptoms. Accounting for discrimination and depressive symptoms slightly reduced the estimated effect of education on cognition. The estimated total effect of graduate education (vs <Bachelor’s) was 0.66 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.62, 0.68), and the direct effect not mediated by discrimination or depressive symptoms was 0.60 (95% CI: 0.43, 0.76). Education has robust effects on later-life cognition after controlling multiple mediating pathways and offsetting mechanisms.