Dementia Rate in the United States Declines as Women’s Education and Employment Increase

The prevalence of dementia is falling in the United States, according to new research.

New data from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative survey, shows that the prevalence of dementia among people aged 65 and over has fallen from 12.2% in 2000 to 8 .5% in 2016, a decrease of 30.1%. In men, the prevalence of dementia rose from 10.2% to 7.0%, while in women it rose from 13.6% to 9.7%, the researchers report.

The study also found that the proportion of college-educated men in the sample increased from 21.5% in 2000 to 33.7% in 2016, while the proportion of college-educated women increased. increased from 12.3% in 2000 to 23% in 2016.

The results also show a drop in the prevalence of dementia among non-Hispanic black men, from 17.2% to 9.9%, a decrease of 42.6%. Among non-Hispanic white males, dementia decreased from 9.3% to 6.6%, or 29.0%.

The investigators also found a substantial increase in the level of education between 2000 and 2016. Moreover, they found that among women aged 74 to 84 in 2000, 29.5% had worked for more than 30 years during their life vs. 59.0% in 2016.

The researchers believe that the decline in dementia prevalence reflects larger socioeconomic changes in the United States as well as prevention strategies to reduce cardiovascular disease.

A person born around 1920, for example, would have been more exposed to the Great Depression, while a person born in 1936 would have benefited more from changes in living standards in the years following World War II, they note.

“More research is needed on the effect of employment on cognitive reserve. It’s plausible that work is good for your mental cognitive abilities,” said study researcher P├ęter Hudomiet, PhD, of the RAND Corporation. Medscape Medical News.

He added that there may also be benefits that extend beyond working years. It is possible that the greater participation of women in the labor market gives them a better chance of establishing relationships that, in some cases, last well into retirement and provide an essential social connection. It’s well known that social isolation has a negative impact on cognition, Hudomiet said.

“It’s plausible that the job is good for your mental cognitive abilities,” he added.

The investigators note that it is not within the scope of their article to draw definitive conclusions about the causes of the decline, but they observed that positive trends in employment and living standards make sense.

“They would suggest that as education levels continue to rise in the younger generation American population, the prevalence of dementia would continue to decline,” the researchers write.

PNAS. Published online November 7, 2022. Summary

Investigators report no relevant financial relationships.

Kerry Dooley Young is a freelance journalist based in Miami Beach. Previously, she covered health policy and the federal budget for Congressional Quarterly/CQ Roll Call and pharmaceuticals and the Food and Drug Administration for Bloomberg. Follow her on Twitter @kdooleyyoung.

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