Home » News » Cognitive Impairment Ups Mortality

Cognitive Impairment Ups Mortality

A new study suggests Alzheimer’s disease and its precursor, mild cognitive impairment, appear to be associated with an increased risk of death among both white and African-American older adults.

The long-term research study by neurological experts at the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center is published in the June issue of Archives of Neurology.

Data from two earlier national surveys have suggested that life expectancy among patients with Alzheimer’s disease may be greater for African-Americans than for whites, according to Robert Wilson, Ph.D, a neuropsychologist at the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush and the study’s lead author.

“In these surveys, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is not based on a uniform clinical evaluation but derived from medical records, which increases the likelihood of substantial variation in the quality of diagnostic classifications,” said Wilson.

However, the results from this study show that the presence and severity of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease are associated with reduced survival among African-Americans and these effects are comparable to those seen among whites, according to Wilson.

Alzheimer’s disease reduces life expectancy and has emerged as a leading cause of death in the United States. “There is limited knowledge about the consequences of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease in African-Americans,” said Wilson.

“In this study we evaluated the risk of death among both African-Americans and whites in an urban community during a 10-year followup.”

Rush researchers evaluated the risk of death associated with incident Alzheimer’s disease and diagnoses were based on a uniform, detailed clinical evaluation. They also examined survival rates among participants with mild cognitive impairment.

A total of 1,715 older adults (average age 80.1, 52.5 percent African-American) who came from four adjacent neighborhoods in Chicago participated in the study. Each participant had a clinical evaluation that included medical history, a neurological examination and cognitive function testing, which analyzes thinking, learning and memory.

Based on these evaluations, an experienced physician diagnosed 296 (17.3 percent) of participants with Alzheimer’s disease, 597 (34.8 percent) with mild cognitive impairment and 20 (1.2 percent) with other forms of dementia, while 802 (46.8 percent) had no cognitive impairment.

During the 10-year followup (average observation period 4.7 years) 634 individuals died (37 percent), including 25.8 percent of those without cognitive impairment, 40.4 percent of those with mild cognitive impairment, 59.1 percent of those with Alzheimer’s disease and 60 percent of those with other forms of dementia.

“Compared with people without cognitive impairment, risk of death was increased by about 50 percent among those with mild cognitive impairment and was nearly three-fold greater among those with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Wilson.

“These effects were seen among African-Americans and whites and did not differ by race.”

Among individuals with mild cognitive impairment, risk of death increased as cognitive impairment became more severe, another association that did not differ by race. A similar association between disease severity and survival was seen among patients with Alzheimer’s disease, although that effect was slightly stronger for African-Americans than whites.

“Overall, these results do not suggest strong racial differences in survival for persons with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Wilson.

“If there are racial differences, it will be important to determine whether they are due to diagnostic bias or whether they reflect actual differences in the underlying neurobiology of the disease or in how affected individuals are cared for.”

Source: Rush University Medical Center

Cognitive Impairment Ups Mortality

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Cognitive Impairment Ups Mortality. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 20, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.