A new study has found a link between the socioeconomic status of neighborhoods and the cognitive function of elderly women.

Researchers surveyed 6,137 dementia-free women between the ages of 65 and 81 from 39 locations across America as part of the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study and found those in affluent neighborhoods fared much better cognitively than older women in poorer neighborhoods.

“All the women in the study were given a standard test that measures cognitive function by assessing items such as memory, reasoning and spatial functions. Researchers found that women who lived in neighborhoods with lower socioeconomic status were substantially more likely to have low cognitive scores than similar women who lived in more affluent neighborhoods.”

Women’s educational backgrounds and incomes were not found to be linked with the relationship between neighborhood socioeconomic status and women’s cognitive functioning. But researchers did find that non-white women appeared to be  “more vulnerable to the effects of neighborhood socioeconomic status because of a longer exposure to poor or declining neighborhoods.”

The study was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health.