Having a lower socioeconomic status increases the likelihood of developing dementia at a younger age threefold.
A study has revealed that individuals from lower socioeconomic status are over three times more prone to suffer from early-onset dementia.
A team of researchers from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China analyzed data from over 440,000 participants between the ages of 37 and 73, which was collected by the UK BioBank. Their findings were published in the Lancet Healthy Longevity journal.
The study examined individuals under the age of 60 who did not show signs of dementia, in order to analyze early-onset dementia. Additionally, the research focused on individuals aged 65 or older at the end of the study period to analyze late-onset dementia. The data from participants in the UK Biobank from 2007 to 2010 was initially used, and later revisited in 2022 for further analysis.
The research, conducted by Rui Li and colleagues, gathered information on the income, education level, and employment status of participants to assess their socioeconomic standing. The data also analyzed their healthy habits, including smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity, and dietary choices.
Research showed that people with a lower socioeconomic status were three times more likely to develop early-onset dementia compared to those from a higher socioeconomic background. Only 12% of cases could be explained by lifestyle choices, indicating that even if individuals from a lower socioeconomic background lead a healthy lifestyle, it may not decrease their risk of early-onset dementia.
The UK’s healthcare system is facing a significant challenge in dealing with dementia, as a recent study revealed that by 2040, approximately 1.7 million individuals in the UK could be affected by this illness. Currently, there are approximately 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and more than 70,800 of them were diagnosed at an early age. Globally, research has shown that around 3.9 million individuals between the ages of 30 and 64 have been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, with an additional 370,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. Early-onset dementia refers to the onset of dementia symptoms before the age of 65.
The study discovered that individuals from a lower socioeconomic status who followed an unhealthy lifestyle were 440% more likely to develop early-onset dementia compared to those from a higher socioeconomic status who followed a healthy lifestyle. The study also revealed that socioeconomic status and lifestyle choices had a greater impact on the risk of developing early-onset dementia compared to late-onset dementia.
The researchers stated that their study was one of the first to investigate the connection between socioeconomic status, healthy habits, and the development of early-onset dementia.
While the research showed a connection between developing dementia at a young age and one’s socioeconomic status, it had limitations due to the sample being predominantly from a European background, with less than 15% representing other ethnicities.
Tommaso Filippini, a researcher in public health who was not part of the study, stated that the results validate the significance of encouraging healthy habits starting at a young age. Additionally, factors such as socioeconomic status play a significant role in the development of early-onset dementia and dementia overall.
He stated: “The results imply that initiatives to lessen social inequalities are highly necessary in order to lower the occurrence of dementia… this research emphasizes that both social inequalities and unhealthy habits may have negative impacts on the overall risk of developing dementia.”