Resilience resources may buffer some middle-aged and older Black Americans from memory decline despite experiencing discrimination

Academic Article


  • Rationale: Experiences of discrimination have been associated with poorer episodic memory in Black Americans. However, resilience resources at multiple levels (individual, social, and endowed) may act as a buffer to protect future memory decline, especially in the face of discrimination. Objective: Using longitudinal data from the 2006–2016 Health and Retirement Study (N = 1862), we tested whether Black Americans aged 50 and older would show different trajectories of episodic memory depending on their reported experiences of discrimination (everyday and major lifetime) and resilience resources. Methods: Analyses were conducted in three steps: (1) joint latent cluster mixed modeling (JLCMM) to estimate the number of classes, (2) barycentric discriminant analyses (BADA) to model the combined influence of discrimination and resilience resources between each memory class, and (3) multinomial regression analyses to explore interactions between discrimination and resilience resources. Results: JLCMM resulted in three memory classes that differentiated baseline from longitudinal memory performance: “High Decliners,” “Low Decliners,” and “Low Stable.” Two independent patterns described the relationships between the three classes in the context of discrimination and resilience resources. First, compared with High Decliners, the two lower baseline memory classes (Low Decliners and Low Stable) reported more everyday discrimination and lower individual and endowed resilience resources. Second, although the Low Stable class did not report different levels of discrimination, they had more social resilience resources (greater social support and more social contact) than both declining classes. Conclusions: Black Americans in later life have heterogeneous patterns of memory trajectories as demonstrated by the three memory classes identified. Those with lower baseline memory experienced more everyday discrimination and had fewer resilience resources compared to those with high baseline performance (High Decliners). Greater social resilience resources were associated with maintained episodic memory over time in Black Americans.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • McDonough IM; Byrd DAR; Choi SL