Dementia linked to socioeconomic deprivation

  • JAMA Psychiatry

  • from Dawn O'Shea
  • UK Medical News
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Older adults in England with fewer financial resources are more likely to develop dementia, according to new research from University College London (UCL).

The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, is the first of its kind to determine which socioeconomic factors influence dementia. It found limited wealth in later life is associated with increased risk for dementia, independent of education.

Data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing were used to investigate the associations between markers of socioeconomic status (wealth quintiles and the index of multiple deprivation) and dementia incidence. To investigate outcomes associated with age cohorts, 2 independent groups were derived using a median split (born between 1902-1925 and 1926-1943).

A total of 6220 individuals aged 65 years and older were enrolled in the study. Of these, 463 (7.4%) received a diagnosis of dementia in the 12 years between 2002-2003 and 2014-2015. The risk of developing dementia was 1.68 times higher for those in the lowest wealth quintile. The association was somewhat stronger for participants born in later years.

Commenting on the findings, senior author, Professor Andrew Steptoe from UCL’s Institute of Epidemiology & Health, said: "Our study confirms that the risk of dementia is reduced among well-off older people compared with those who have fewer economic resources. 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."