Access to primary care and cognitive impairment: results from a national community study of aging Americans

Academic Article


  • Background: Despite a growing burden of Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias (ADRD) in the US, the relationship between health care and cognitive impairment prevention is unclear. Primary care manages risk causing conditions and risk reducing behaviors for dementia, so we examine the association between individual and area-level access to primary care and cognitive impairment in the REasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study. Methods: REGARDS participants with a cognitive assessment and vascular measurements at their baseline visit were included in this cross-sectional analysis. Cognitive impairment was defined as a Six-Item Screener (SIS) score < 5. Primary care supply, primary care utilization and emergency department (ED) utilization were measured at the primary care service area (PCSA) level based on participant’s address. Individual access to care was self-reported. Models were adjusted for confounding by demographics, socioeconomic status and behavioral risk factors. Results: Among 25,563 adults, living in a PCSA with low primary care supply was associated with 25% higher odds of cognitive impairment (OR 1.25 CI 1.07-1.45). Not having a regular source of medical care was associated with 14% higher odds of cognitive impairment (OR 1.14 CI 1.02-1.28), and living in a PCSA with high emergency department utilization was associated with 12% higher odds of cognitive impairment (OR 1.12 CI 1.02-1.23). Conclusions: Our results are an important first step in understanding how health care may prevent cognitive impairment. They highlight the importance of primary care and suggest future work clarifying its role in preventing cognitive decline is imperative.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • BMC Geriatrics  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Mullins MA; Bynum JPW; Judd SE; Clarke PJ
  • Volume

  • 21
  • Issue

  • 1