What is it about?

This paper estimated the fraction of the 65+-year-old U.S. population who lived with dementia and tracked how it changed between 2000 and 2016 by age, sex, race and ethnicity, education, and a measure of lifetime earnings. The fraction decreased from 12.2% in 2000 to 8.5% in 2016, a decline of 3.7 percentage points or 30.1 percent. Women are more likely to live with dementia, but the sex difference has narrowed. In the male subsample, we found a reduction in inequalities across education, earnings, and racial and ethnic groups; among women, those inequalities also declined, but less strongly.

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Why is it important?

Reducing health disparities is a high-level national priority. Dementia is a widespread, burdensome, and costly condition with substantial variation by education, sex, and across racial and ethnic groups. While a decline in population prevalence has been firmly established in prior research, much less is known about trends in disparities, even whether they have increased or decreased. Yet, this knowledge is critical if public policy is to address these disparities.


The findings are good news. They imply that a substantially smaller fraction of the older U.S. population lives with this devastating condition than 20 years ago. The narrowing inequalities are also a welcome development, especially since it contrasts with trends in other health inequalities that have increased in the United States over the past 30 years, such as smoking rates, obesity, and mortality. Fortunately, we see more favorable trends in dementia.

Peter Hudomiet
Rand Corporation

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Trends in inequalities in the prevalence of dementia in the United States, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2212205119.
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