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Older people living in deprived areas at increased risk of developing dementia

Older people living in disadvantaged areas have a greater risk of developing early risk factors for dementia than those in better off areas. PA Photo

OLDER people living in disadvantaged areas have a greater risk of developing early risk factors for dementia than those in better off areas, an Ulster University study has found.

The study covered the island of Ireland and examined cognitive dysfunction in more than 5,000 older people.

It found those in the most deprived areas were at 40 per cent higher risk of having cognitive impairment than with a person of the same age living in the least deprived areas.

With cases of dementia predicted to triple by 2050, governments are keen to identify individuals at greatest risk of developing cognitive dysfunction in order to formulate dementia prevention strategies and help.

The findings are published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Association.

Teams from Nutrition and Geography & Environmental Sciences at Ulster University worked with colleagues from Trinity College Dublin, Maynooth University and clinicians from the health services on both sides of the border.

Professor Adrian Moore, Head of the School of Geography and Environmental Sciences at Ulster University was senior author of the paper.

Older people living in deprived areas across Ireland were also more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

Compared with people in the least deprived areas, those living in the most deprived areas had:

• three years less spent in formal education

• higher rates of smoking and higher alcohol consumption

• higher rates of obesity

• higher blood pressure

• higher risk of diabetes

However, even after taking all these factors into consideration in the analysis of the study results, older people living in the most deprived areas were found to be at significantly higher risk of having cognitive impairment.

The academics believe this suggests factors relating to the living environment, such as income inequality and access to resources, may be implicated.

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