Belfast Telegraph

Older people in deprived areas more likely to develop dementia

Older people living in deprived areas are more likely to develop dementia, new research from Ulster University has found.

The study focused on people across the island of Ireland, taking in a sample of more than 5,000 older people.

It was found older people living in the most deprived areas had a 40% higher risk of cognitive impairment - an early risk factor for dementia - than those in better off areas.

A number of differences were seen between those living in the most and least deprived areas, with those in least deprived areas:

  • Spending three years less in formal education
  • Having a higher rate of smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Having a higher rate of obesity
  • Having higher blood pressure
  • Having a higher risk of diabetes

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

All of those participating in the study were over the age of 74, with around two thirds being female.

In its conclusion the study called on further cross-national analysis into the impact of local deprivation and how this impacts health outcomes for older adults.

The research was carried out by teams from the Nutrition and Geography & Environmental Sciences at Ulster University, who worked with teams from Trinity College Dublin, Maynooth University and clinicians on both sides of the border.

Professor Helene McNulty, director of Ulster University’s Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health said: “Our study suggests that older people living in the most deprived areas are at higher risk of poor mental health and cognitive impairment. The results of this study have the potential to shape international policy to improve health outcomes in older adults, specifically in the area of preventing dementia."

The findings of the study are published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Association and used new mapping and addressing techniques to link participants to official socioeconomic indicators of deprivation in both Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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