National Institute of Environmental Health SciencesIdentification of Neighborhood Environmental Factors Associated with Dementia Incidence Among Men and Women in the Overall Population and by Race/Ethnicity: Implications for Place-Based Research
Dementia, a debilitating disease that causes physical and mental disabilities and poses an immense economic burden, affects an estimated 5 million people in the United States. Socially disadvantaged, marginalized populations, including non-Hispanic Black individuals, are disproportionately burdened, and it is estimated that two out of three dementia patients are women. The prevalence of dementia is expected to increase, given the growing older adult population. These findings emphasize the importance of identifying strategies to prevent or delay the onset of dementia. Previous prevention and treatment efforts have focused primarily on developing pharmaceutical drugs and have been largely unsuccessful. More recent research has demonstrated a connection between the neighborhood environment and cognition; however, few studies have focused specifically on dementia.
Understanding associations between various social (e.g., residential segregation) and physical (e.g., food outlets) features of the neighborhood environment and dementia risk is critical. Such information is key to understanding how features of the neighborhood environment relate to risk factors of dementia and contribute to the observed racial/ethnic and sex/gender disparities. Additionally, such information can inform environmental and social policies and, for example, community-based interventions that promote opportunities for social and cognitive stimulation, which may delay the onset of dementia. Therefore, it is important to identify neighborhood features that may contribute to greater dementia incidence in order to inform intervention strategies to reduce racial/ethnic and sex/gender disparities.
Dr. Alhasan and members of her research team plan to leverage the South Carolina Alzheimer’s Disease Registry to identify key features of the neighborhood environment that are associated with dementia risk. The neighborhood characteristics identified may be used as upstream targets for intervention, in hopes of reducing observed disparities.