Social determinants of health tied to disproportionate dementia rates among minority groups, study says

Research ties poor social determinants of health and health equity issues to disproportionate rates of dementia in minority populations, according to the National Institute on Aging. Furthermore, Alzheimer's disease and other dementia disproportionately affect older Black and Hispanic Americans compared to older white Americans, according to the Alzheimer's Association. 

According to the most recent data, 6.5 million Americans aged 65 and older are affected by Alzheimer's in 2022. Older Black Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer's disease or other dementia, and older Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer's disease compared to older white Americans. 

Carl Hill, PhD, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at the Alzheimer's Association, told the St. Louis American that a family's socio-economic status reflects each family's ability to access economic resources and is linked to physical and psychological health. 

"We focus a lot on getting people to change their behaviors, but we have to think critically about getting them resources in a sustained way to make sure they have access to quality foods, opportunities to engage in physical activity, opportunities to manage their stressors, and so on," Dr. Hill said. 

According to Dr. Hill, additional health equity issues tied to Alzheimer's include dementia-related health disparities and minority participation in clinical trials. He attributed the lack of minority participation and representation in dementia-related clinical trials to previous unethical medical trials, including the landmark Tuskegee Experiment. 

Much of the Alzheimer's research to date has not included enough Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native Americans to be representative of the U.S. population.

"The takeaway here is that the new research adds to the point that socio-economic status impacts health, which emphasizes the importance of public health and policy making that impacts socio-economic conditions," Dr. Hill said.

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