Religion and Cognitive Functioning: Race-Ethnicity and Gender Differences in Older Adults.

Andrea K. Henderson , University of South Carolina
Katrina M. Walsemann, University of South Carolina
Jennifer A. Ailshire, University of Southern California

Disparities in cognitive functioning among older adults exist. Little work at the intersections of race-ethnicity and gender and cognition has been investigated. Religion is important to aging adults and may play a role in maintaining healthy cognition. Using the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative sample of US adults aged 50 and older, we expand current knowledge on the religion-cognition relationship. First, we explore whether the association between religion and cognition varies by race-ethnicity and gender. Second, we examine the extent to which several psychosocial mechanisms explain the association between religion and cognitive functioning among older adults. Results suggest that infrequent attendance and religiosity are inversely related to cognitive functioning. However, among older Black women, religiosity is associated with better cognitive functioning, and the relationship remains significant once psychosocial mediators are included. The results highlight the importance of investigating healthy aging, and health-protective resources, at various complex social positions.

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 Presented in Session 6. Health & Mortality & Aging