Older adults living in poverty have an increased risk of developing dementia, according to a new U.K. study published in JAMA Psychiatry.
For the study, researchers from the University College London (UCL) analyzed the data of more than 6,000 English adults born between 1902 and 1943 and found that the 20 percent most deprived adults were 50 percent more likely to develop dementia than the 20 percent least deprived adults.
The researchers suggest that many factors could be involved: Perhaps wealthier people have healthier lifestyles or fewer medical risk factors, or maybe they have greater social and cultural opportunities that allow them to remain actively engaged with the world.
“The research demonstrates the importance of socioeconomic influences on dementia incidence,” said lead author Dr. Dorina Cadar of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health.
“We hope our findings help inform public health strategies for dementia prevention evidencing why socioeconomic gaps should be targeted to reduce health disparities and enhance engagement in socio-cultural activities that ultimately contribute to a higher mental resilience or cognitive reserve.”
The research team analyzed data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), a prospective cohort study that is representative of the English population. Two independent groups were created using a median split (born between 1902-1925 and 1926-1943) to determine whether there were differences over time.
Their findings reveal that socioeconomic inequalities were more prominent for individuals born in later years (from 1926 onwards) than in those born earlier in the 20th century.
“Our study confirms that the risk of dementia is reduced among well-off older people compared with those who have fewer economic resources,” said Professor Andrew Steptoe of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health, and senior author of the study.
“Many factors could be involved. Differences in healthy lifestyle and medical risk factors are relevant. It may also be that better off people have greater social and cultural opportunities that allow them to remain actively engaged with the world.”
The research is the first to look at which socioeconomic factors influence dementia and to determine that limited wealth in late life is linked to a greater risk of dementia, regardless of education.
“Dementia is a progressive neurodegenerative condition with devastating consequences to individuals, their families and governments around the world. Our efforts are unified in identifying the risk factors associated with a delay in the onset of dementia or a slower progression,” said Cadar.
“Our findings demonstrate that socioeconomic determinants influence dementia incidence, suggesting a higher risk for individuals with fewer financial resources.”
Source: University College London