February 16, 2016
2 min read

Dementia incidence varies more than 60% between ethnicities

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Dementia incidence varied more than 60% between racial/ethnic groups, and was highest among blacks and lowest among Asian Americans, according to recent findings.

“Most research on inequalities in dementia includes only one to two racial and ethnic groups, primarily whites and blacks,” Elizabeth Rose Mayeda, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, said in a press release. “This is the only research that directly compares dementia for these six racial and ethnic groups, representing the true aging demographic of the United States in a single study population.”

To assess racial/ethnic disparities in Alzheimer’s disease, researchers evaluated dementia incidence from 2000 through 2013 and a 25-year cumulative risk among 274,283 Kaiser Permanente Northern California members aged 64 years and older. Of these, 18,778 were black; 4,543 were American Indian/Alaska Native; 21,000 were Latino; 440 were Pacific Islander; and 206,490 were white.

Dementia incidence was highest among blacks (26.6 per 1,000 person-years) and American Indian/Alaska natives (22.2 per 1,000 person-years), followed by Latinos (19.6 per 1,000 person-years), Pacific Islanders (19.6 per 1,000 person-years) and whites (19.3 per 1,000 person-years). Dementia incidence was lowest among Asian-Americans, at 15.2 per 1,000 person-years.

Risk for dementia was 65% greater among blacks compared with Asian Americans (HR = 1.65; 95% CI, 1.58-1.72).

Cumulative 25-year risk at age 65 years was 38% for blacks, 35% for American Indian/Alaska Natives, 32% for Latinos, 25% for Pacific Islanders, 30% for whites and 28% for Asian Americans.

“This study has major public health implications. If all individuals aged 65 or older had the same rate of dementia as Asian Americans, 190,000 cases of dementia would be prevented annually. These findings underscore the need to better understand risk factors for dementia throughout life to identify strategies to eliminate these inequalities,” Rachel A. Whitmer, PhD, of University of California, San Francisco, and Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, California, said in the release. “Based on the present study, we cannot determine the extent to which genetic or social and behavioral factors contribute to the observed patterns. But if social and behavioral factors are the primary pathways, these findings suggest substantial reductions in dementia incidence are possible.” – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: Please see the full study for a list of all authors’ relevant financial disclosures.