Cognitive Trajectories in Community-Dwelling Older Adults and Incident Dementia, Disability and Death: A 10-Year Longitudinal Study

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Objective: The inter-individual variability in cognitive changes may be early indicators of major health events. We aimed to determine whether late-life cognitive trajectories were associated with incident dementia, persistent physical disability and all-cause mortality. Methods: Data came from a cohort of older community-dwelling individuals aged 70 years or above in Australia and the United States. Global cognition, verbal fluency, episodic memory and psychomotor speed were assessed regularly at up to seven waves between 2010 and 2017. Dementia, disability in activities of daily living, and death were adjudicated between 2017 and 2020. Latent classes of cognitive trajectories over seven years were determined using group-based trajectory modeling. Multivariable logistic regression was used for the prospective associations between cognitive trajectories and these outcomes. Results: Cognitive trajectories were defined for 16,174 participants (mean age: 78.9 years; 56.7% female) who were alive and without incident dementia or disability by 2017, among which 14,655 participants were included in the association analysis. Between three and five trajectory classes were identified depending on the cognitive test. Cognitive trajectories were strongly associated with the risk of dementia. For example, compared to those in the highest-functioning trajectory, the worst performers of episodic memory had a 37-fold increased risk of dementia (95% CI: 17.23–82.64). The lowest trajectories of both global cognition and episodic memory also predicted increased mortality risk (OR: 1.80, 95% CI: 1.28–2.52; OR: 1.61, 95% CI: 1.09–2.36, respectively), while only slow psychomotor speed was marginally associated with physical disability (OR: 2.39, 95% CI: 0.99–5.77). Conclusions: In older individuals, cognitive trajectories appear to be early indicators of clinically relevant health outcomes. Systematic cognitive assessments as part of routine geriatric evaluation may facilitate early identification and interventions for those individuals at highest risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article number917254
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2022


  • activities of daily living
  • aging
  • cognition
  • death
  • dementia
  • longitudinal

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