Skip to main content

The influence of race and depression on processing speed and executive functioning in older adults

1 January 2015


Objective: Although some research suggests depression affects executive functioning (EF) and processing speed (PS), few studies examine this influence in neurologically healthy older adults or consider specific racial groups. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of depression symptoms on EF and PS in older adults of different races.

Method: Subjects were 5267 Whites and 920 Blacks from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (mean/SD: age = 75.44/6.97; education = 15.66/5.26). Dependent variables for a series of multiple regression analyses included measures of: EF – Trail Making Test B (TMT-B), Digit Span Backwards, Animal Naming; and PS - Trail Making Test A (TMT-A), Digit Symbol. Independent variables were the GDS, clinician diagnosis of depression, and current antidepressant medication use.

Results: GDS was a statistically significant predictor of performance on all measures with the exception of TMT-B and Animals in the Black group. Diagnosis of depression was a statistically significant predictor of Digits Backward in both groups and for Animals in the White group. Antidepressant use was a statistically significant predictor of performance on Digit Symbol, TMT-A and TMT-B in the White group. However, no combination of depression variables accounted for more than six percent of the variance in neuropsychological measures.

Conclusions: Symptoms of depression, as measured by the GDS, clinical diagnosis of depression, and antidepressant medication use accounts for little of the variance in measures of EF and PS, and the pattern of these associations is more similar than different for Blacks and Whites.


Files are restricted to Pacific University. Sign in to view.