DOI: 10.1002/alz.079399 ISSN: 1552-5260

Associations of objective and subjective neighborhood measures with cognitive change in a repeated measurement burst design

Jinshil Hyun, Mindy J. Katz, Carol A. Derby, Cuiling Wang, Gina S Lovasi, Martin J. Sliwinski, Richard B. Lipton
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology



Prior studies have reported associations between neighborhood characteristics and late‐life cognition. These studies assessed neighborhood using either objective (e.g., area‐level data from public database) or subjective (individual‐level perception) measures. However, little research has been done to examine effects of objective and subjective measures simultaneously. The present study aims to investigate the independent associations of objective and subjective neighborhood characteristics with cognitive change in older adults.


Participants include 316 individuals in the Einstein Aging Study (mean age = 77; 67% females; 45% non‐Hispanic Whites, 40% non‐Hispanic Blacks). Subjective neighborhood measures included perceived neighborhood safety, aesthetic quality, social cohesion, and availability of healthy foods (range = 1 poor to 5 excellent). Objective neighborhood measures included violent crime, neighborhood deprivation, volunteering rates, percentage of healthy food retailers, and low access to healthy food. Processing speed was assessed using the brief, smartphone‐administered Symbol Search Test, and was completed 6x/day over two weeks; this was repeated annually from 2017 to 2022. To account for non‐linear retest/practice effects, double negative exponential models were used to estimate the relation of neighborhood measures to asymptotic performance (i.e., fastest response time) at baseline and to change in asymptotic performance over time.


Most subjective and objective neighborhood measures were significantly correlated with each other (Table 1). In models containing both objective and subjective neighborhood measures, better perceived safety was associated with greater annual improvement in asymptotic performance (40 milliseconds/year for one point increase in safety) while the objective measure of violent crime was not. Perceived availability of healthy foods was independently associated with a faster baseline asymptotic processing speed (estimate = 160 milliseconds) and with greater annual improvement rate (estimate = 54 milliseconds/year) while the objective measures of food environment were not (Table 2).


Subjective rather than objective neighborhood characteristics were strongly associated with annual rates of change in processing speed over five years in community‐dwelling older adults. Perception of one’s neighborhood may be a more proximal predictor of cognitive health as it may reflect an individual’s lived experiences and determine one’s psychological states and health‐related behaviors. Alternatively, more fine‐grained objective neighborhood measures (e.g., individual‐level) would be necessary to better characterize objective neighborhood environments.

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