Despite extensive observational and intervention research, the association between concentrations of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and cognition at older ages remains unclear. This study investigated cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between plasma DHEAS and cognitive function in a large nationally-representative cohort of men and women aged 50 and older.
Data were analysed from 5061 participants (mean age 65.1, standard deviation 8.61) who completed memory, verbal fluency and processing speed tests at baseline and two years later. Age, education, marital status, paid employment, depressive symptoms, mobility impairment, coronary heart disease and diabetes were included as covariates, and analyses were stratified by gender.
We found positive associations at baseline between DHEAS concentration and aggregate cognition after adjustment for covariates in men (β = 0.049, standard error (s.e.) 0.020, p = 0.015). Longitudinally, DHEAS at baseline predicted cognition two years later in men (β = 0.052, s.e. 0.020, p = 0.010), but not after baseline cognition was taken into account (β = 0.022, s.e. 0.016, p = 0.17), indicating that DHEAS was not associated with rate of cognitive decline.
Similar associations were recorded at 6 year follow-up. No significant relationships between DHEAS and cognition were observed among women.
We conclude that greater DHEAS concentrations are associated with cognition level at older ages in men, but are unlikely to play a functional role in cognitive decline.