Ethnic-specific Sociodemographic Factors as Determinants of Cognitive Performance: Cross-sectional Analysis of the Malaysian Elders Longitudinal Research (MELoR) Study

Nur Fazidah Asmuje, Sumaiyah Mat, Phyo Kyaw Myint, Tan Maw Pin* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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Introduction Despite cognitive impairment being a major health issue within the older population, limited information is available on factors associated with cognitive function among Asian ethnic groups. The objective of this study was to identify ethnic-specific sociodemographic risk factors which are associated with cognitive performance. Methods Cross-sectional analysis of the Malaysian Elders
Longitudinal Research (MELoR) study involving community-dwelling individuals aged >55 years was conducted. Information on sociodemographic, medical history and lifestyle were obtained by computer-assisted interviews in participants’ homes. Cognitive performance was assessed with the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) tool during subsequent hospital-based health checks.
Hierarchical multiple linear regression analyses were conducted with continuous MoCA scores as the dependent variable. Results Data was available for 1140 participants, mean(SD)=68.48(7.23) years, comprising 377(33.1%) ethnic Malays, 414(36.3%) Chinese, and 349(30.6%) Indians. Mean (SD) MoCA scores were 20.44(4.92), 23.97(4.03) and 22.04(4.83) for Malays, Chinese and Indians, respectively (p=0.01). Age >75 years, <12 years of education and low functional ability were common risk factors for low cognitive performance across all three ethnic groups. Cognitive performance was positively associated with social engagement among the ethnic Chinese (β(95% CI)= 0.06(0.01,0.11)) and Indians
(β(95% CI)= 0.16(0.09,0.23)), and with lower depression scores (β(95% CI)= -0.08(-0.15,-0.01)) among the ethnic Indians. Conclusion Common factors associated with cognitive performance include age, education and functional ability, and ethnic-specific factors were social engagement and depression.
Interethnic comparisons of risk factors may form the basis for identification of ethnic-specific modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline and provision of culturally acceptable prevention measures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396–404
Number of pages9
JournalDementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders
Issue number5
Early online date29 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

We are grateful to Prof Dr Chin Ai Vyrn and Prof Dr Shahrul Bahyah Kamaruzzaman from Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya for their help in MELoR study. We also thank members of the Ageing and Age-Associated Disorders Research Group for helping with patient recruitment and data collection


  • Ethnic-specific
  • cognition
  • aged
  • Dementia
  • sociodemographic factors
  • Malaysia


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