When it comes to dementia, it's:
- better to be from a rural area than an urban area
- better to be an African from Ibadan, Nigeria than an African-American from Indianapolis, Indiana
- good to be a Native American of Cree descent, and
- great to be from Kashmir, India.
It may also be better to be from the developing world than from the developed. Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI), a federation of Alzheimer's organizations, recently sponsored an effort to estimate rates of dementia around the globe. The organization convened a group of experts to develop consensus estimates of the precent of the 60 and older population with dementia in various world regions. The results, recently published in The Lancet [free registration required], show lower estimated rates of dementia in developing regions:
North America 6.4%
Western Europe 5.4%
Eastern Europe 3.8-3.9%
Latin America 4.6%
North Africa/Middle East 3.6%
Developed western Pacific 4.3%
Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka 2.7%
India and south Asia 1.9%
The authors of the study caution that these numbers are only estimates. The small scale of some studies, combined with a lack of data for developing regions, makes accurate comparison difficult.
Why might people in developing areas be less likely to have dementia? Differences in several factors might explain the varying prevalence rates:
- Environment and diet
- Diagnostic methods, and suitability across cultures and education levels
- Cardiovascular disease rates
- Survival rates of patients with dementia
- Mortality rates from other diseases
- Cultural views of dementia.
Studying these factors and others may highlight possible prevention strategies, and are important input to policy decisions on healthcare. The 10/66 Dementia Research Group, part of ADI, is working to increase research on dementia in developing regions of the world. This work may help all dementia sufferers, no matter where they live.