Gender differences in neuropsychological test performance in non-demented older adults
Hirshson, Chari I.
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Purpose: To examine the effect of gender on neuropsychological test performance in a community based cohort of older adults. Methods: Participants were non-demented individuals age 70 years and older (N=573) enrolled in the Einstein Aging Study (EAS). Neuropsychological test performance assessed at the baseline visit was used for the purpose of this study. Statistical analyses: Individual neuropsychological tests served as the dependent measures in three separate MANOVAs that assessed the cognitive domains of attention/executive function, verbal IQ and memory. Gender served as the two-level independent variable. Analyses controlled for age, education, ethnicity, medical comorbidity, and general cognitive status. Results: MANOVAs demonstrated significant gender effects for attention/executive function [Wilks's Lambda=.96, F(5, 618)=5.21, p<0.001], verbal IQ [Wilks's Lambda=.91, F(4, 751)=17.6, p<0.001], and memory [Wilks's Lambda=.93, F(2, 818)=30.9, p<0.001]. ANOVAs, conducted as follow-up tests with Bonferroni correction, showed significant gender differences in several neuropsychological tests. Specifically, women performed better than men on the Digit Symbol subtest [F(1, 622)=6.03, p=0.014], the Category Fluency test [F(1, 819)=48.7, p<0.001] and the Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test [F(1, 819)=34.1, p<0.001]. Men scored higher than women on the Block Design [F(1, 622)=10.9, p=0.001] and Information subtests [F(1, 754)=56.9, p<0.0011. Conclusion: There is a significant influence of gender on neuropsychological test performance in normal aging. This has important implications with respect to the use of normative data and the diagnosis of age-related cognitive disorders.