Lower socioeconomic status linked to increased risk of dementia

A new study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, has found that older adults in England with fewer financial resources are more likely to develop dementia.

Dementia is a progressive neurodegenerative condition that can have devastating effects on an individual as they age. There are a number of diseases that fit under the umbrella of dementia, but all of them decrease a person’s thinking ability and memory. This can lead to a regression in lifestyle that affects the person’s family and those around them as well.

A new study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, has found that older adults in England with fewer financial resources are more likely to develop dementia. This study is the first of its kind to determine which socioeconomic factors have an effect on dementia. Through analyzing data from more than 6,000 adults born between 1902 and 1943, the researchers found that the 20% most deprived adults were 50% more likely to develop dementia than the 20% least deprived adults.

“Our efforts are unified in identifying the risk factors associated with a delay in the onset of dementia or a slower progression,” Dr. Dorina Cadar of the University College London Institute of Epidemiology & Health and lead author of the study. “Our findings demonstrate that socioeconomic determinants influence dementia incidence, suggesting a higher risk for individuals with fewer financial resources.”

Through analysis of data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA), a prospective cohort study that is representative of England’s population, they found that socioeconomic inequalities had more of an influence for individuals born in later years (1926 and later) than in those born earlier.

“Our study confirms that the risk of dementia is reduced among well-off older people compared with those who have fewer economic resources,” explains Andrew Steptoe, a professor in the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health. “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.”

Whatever the reasons behind this link may be, this research could help strengthen public health strategies for dementia prevention, and show that there is even more of a need to reduce health disparities and close socioeconomic gaps.

By Connor Ertz, Earth.com Staff Writer