Dementia Rates In Older Americans Dropped By A Third

by Staff Writer
November 9, 2022 at 3:25 PM UTC


Clinical Relevance: Although age is not a modifiable risk factor in dementia, lifestyle choices such as education can help reduce the risk of memory loss conditions in seniors

  • The prevalence of dementia in Americans over 65 decreased by a third between 2000 and 2016.
  • The disparity gap in dementia among minorities and women compared to white men is closing.
  • Dementia remains a huge concern for older Americans, with total numbers of diagnoses expected to continue rising.

Some good news regarding dementia. Incidence of chronic memory conditions dropped by a third among U.S. seniors between 2000 to 2016. 

According to a new RAND Corp. study, the age-adjusted prevalence of dementia fell from 12.2 percent to 8.5 in people over the age of 65 during that 16-year time period.

Also promising – disparities in dementia diagnoses appear to be narrowing. For example, while women are still more susceptible to age-related memory difficulties, the percentage of females living with dementia dropped from 13.6 percent to 9.7 percent. The nearly 4 percentage points dip is greater than the 2.3 percent dip among men with dementia, who went from 10.2 percent to 7.0 percent in the same timespan.

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The percentage among Black men with dementia also fell more than 7 points from 17.2 percent to 9.9 percent compared to just  a 3 percentage reduction (9,3 to 5.5 percent) among white men.

The research, published in the latest issue of the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), used age, sex, education, race ethnicity, and lifetime earnings to estimate dementia incidence. In their paper, the RAND researchers noted that dementia rates have been diminishing steadily over the past few decades. 

“We observed a substantial increase in the level of education between 2000 and 2016 in the sample. This compositional change can explain, in a statistical sense, about 40% of the reduction in dementia prevalence among men and 20% among women, whereas compositional changes in the older population by age, race and ethnicity, and cardiovascular risk factors mattered less,” they wrote.

This latest study adds to growing evidence that age-adjusted dementia prevalence is on the decline. Besides rising levels of education, a reduction in smoking, and better treatment of key cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure could be contributing to cutting the risk of dementia in developing countries, they write. 

But dementia is still a growing health concern in the U.S. The total number of people over the age of 65 diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other related disorders, currently tops 7 million in this country, according to Population Reference Bureau statistics. Because advancing age remains one of the strongest risk factors for memory loss-related conditions, the number is expected to rise to 12 million by 2040 as the population ages. 

Worldwide, the overall numbers of people who will live with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is predicted to rise from 50 million currently, to as high as 150 million by 2050.  And globally, dementia costs top $ 1.3 trillion and are projected to rise to $ 1.7 trillion by 2030, WHO statistics state.

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