Research presented at the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in San Diego this week links socioeconomic deprivation, including neighbourhood disadvantages and persistent low wages, to higher dementia risk, lower cognitive performance and faster memory decline.
The findings, from four separate studies*, also show that people who experience high socioeconomic deprivation are significantly more likely to develop dementia compared to people who live in more affluent areas.
Dr Susan Mitchell, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, says: “Addressing health inequalities is a key part of the challenge of tackling dementia. These findings add to the growing body of evidence that the environment people live and work in affects their dementia risk, which government plays a key role in helping to shape.
“There has never been a more pressing need to identify, understand and develop interventions against risk factors for dementia. Of the leading causes of death, dementia is the fastest rising health condition facing the UK, with numbers set to increase to over 1.6 million by 2050.
“By adopting ambitious population-wide measures, the government can improve the environments that people live in, and which in turn enables people from all backgrounds to make positive lifestyle changes to support their brain health and reduce their risk of developing dementia. This effort must involve government departments beyond those responsible for health - for example housing, communities and education - and be backed with sufficient funding.
“We urge government to make dementia prevention a key priority in its aim to level up healthcare across the country, and hope the forthcoming health disparities white paper lays the foundation for a fairer, healthier nation.”
The health disparities white paper is expected to be published in the autumn.
* The studies are:
Matthias Klee, M.Sc., et al. Socioeconomic Deprivation, Genetics and Risk of Dementia (Funder: European Research Council)
Anthony Longoria, M.S., et al. Allostatic load and the influence of economic adversity and neighborhood disadvantage on cognitive function in a multiethnic cohort (Funder: Moss Heart Trust)
Jennifer Manly, Ph.D., et al. Parental SES buffers the effect of plasma pTau181 on memory among non-Latinx White, Latinx, and non-Latinx Black middle-aged adults (Funder: National Institute on Aging)
Katrina Kezios, Ph.D., et al. Low Hourly Wages in Middle-Age are Associated with Faster Memory Decline in Older Age: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study