In Brief

Dementia rates higher among black people, finds study

But researchers warn that black people are much less likely to be formally diagnosed and receive support

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Black people are far more likely to develop dementia than those from white or Asian ethnic groups, according to new research.

However, the researchers, from University College London and King’s College London, warn that black people are much less likely to be formally diagnosed and to receive support.

The study, published in the journal Clinical Epidemiology, is believed to be the first to analyse rates of dementia diagnosis in the UK by ethnicity and gender.

The data shows that the incidence of dementia diagnosis are 25% higher among black women than white women, and 28% higher among black men than white men.

Asian women and men were 18% and 12% less likely than white women and men, respectively, to have a dementia diagnosis, according to The Independent.

Overall, the proportion of people in the study to have dementia diagnosed each year rose from 3.75 per 1,000 in 2007 to 5.65 per 1,000 in 2015, adds The Times.

“What we found suggests that the rates of people receiving a diagnosis may be lower than the actual rates of dementia in certain groups, particularly among black men,” said study co-author Dr Tra My Pham, from UCL’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health. “It is concerning that black people appear to be more at risk of dementia but less likely to receive a timely diagnosis.”

The researchers have various theories as to why dementia rates appear to be so low among Asian people. The “apparent paradox” of lower levels of dementia might reflect “differing genetic susceptibility”, they said. But cultural inequality and stigma leading to lower levels of diagnosis may also play a role.

“Our new findings may reflect, for example, that there are inequalities in the care people receive to prevent and treat illnesses associated with dementia,” said lead author Dr Claudia Cooper, from UCL’s Division of Psychiatry. “Or perhaps GPs or patients’ families are reluctant to name dementia in communities where more stigma is associated with a dementia diagnosis.”

“Perhaps British Asians do have a lower risk, or they may only be less likely to be diagnosed when they develop it,” she continued. “Rates of timely diagnosis in the UK have been improving, but it appears that not all groups of society are benefiting equally. It’s important that messages that dementia is best diagnosed early are tailored to different groups. We’ve previously found that people’s cultural background can influence how willing or unwilling they are to seek help.”

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