The effect of educational attainment on cognition of older adults: results from the Mexican Health and Aging Study 2001 and 2012

Carlos Díaz-Venegas, Rafael Samper Ternent, Alejandra Michaels-Obregón, Rebeca Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: This paper seeks to document changes in the effect of educational attainment on cognitive function of older adults in Mexico, and measure gender differences using data from two time periods. Methods: The data come from the Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS), taking the cross-sections of adults aged 60 years or older interviewed in 2001 and 2012. We perform an OLS regression using standardized z-scores for five individual cognitive domains and for total cognition. Results: Total cognitive scores and educational attainment were higher for men than women in both years. When cognitive components were analyzed separately, women had higher verbal memory and verbal recall scores than men. The gender gap in overall cognition score was smaller in 2012 compared to 2001, while the gender gap in educational attainment was larger in 2012 than in 2001. Even though men had higher educational attainment than women, the effect of educational attainment on cognition was higher for women. Similarly, the difference between total scores for each task for men compared to women decreased between 2012 and 2001, except for verbal learning and verbal recall where the gender difference widened. Conclusions: If younger cohorts of women continue to progressively achieve higher levels of education, the gender gap in old-age cognition should close. Additional work should determine the mechanisms through which added formal education seems to translate into higher cognitive gains for women compared to men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1586-1594
Number of pages9
JournalAging & mental health
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019



  • Cognitive functioning
  • educational attainment
  • gender differences
  • Mexican Health and Aging Study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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