Black and South Asian Britons with dementia are dying younger and earlier after being diagnosed than white people, new research has found.
South Asians die 2.97 years younger and black people 2.66 years younger than their white counterparts, according to a study by academics from University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
A team led by Dr Naaheed Mukadam, from UCL’s Division of Psychiatry, reached their conclusions after studying the health records covering the 21 years between 1997 and 2018 of 662,882 people aged over 65 in across the UK.
This was the first study to investigate the incidence and prevalence of dementia, as well as age at diagnosis, survival, and age at death, in white, black, and South Asian ethnic groups. using electronic records kept by both the doctor’s office and hospital staff.
They found that:
Dementia rates have increased in all ethnic groups.
Blacks are 22% more likely to have dementia than their white peers.
Dementia is 17% less common among people of South Asian descent.
But they expressed concern about also finding that South Asians and black people are diagnosed younger, survive shorter and die younger than white people.
“The early age of dementia diagnosis in people of black and South Asian descent [origin] …may be related to the higher prevalence of certain risk factors for dementia such as, in older South Asians, fewer years of education and, in both groups, hypertension [high blood pressure]diabetes and obesity,” they write in their article published in the medical journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
“Black and South Asian people survived shorter after dementia diagnosis and died at younger ages.
“Overall, our results show that black and South Asian patients are diagnosed with dementia at a younger age and die at a younger age with dementia than white patients, losing more years of life,” added Mukadam and his five co-authors.
They also found that 11.8% of those over 65 had dementia. This is the highest figure for the prevalence of dementia in Britain that no study has yet produced. For example, the NHS website says that one in 14 people – around 7% – suffer from the disease brain atrophy, which is believed to be closely linked to unhealthy lifestyles. The researchers say the difference is due to the increase in life expectancy since previous estimates were established.
The stark disparities between ethnic groups are “concerning”, Mukadam said. When asked to explain why black and South Asian people die earlier than white people, she replied, “We don’t know if earlier death after a dementia diagnosis is because dementia is detected at a later stage in ethnic minority groups and therefore people decline faster, if underlying. the risk factors in these groups contribute to poorer overall health or whether there is a difference in post-diagnosis support that results in these differences.
Dr Habib Naqvi, director of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, said the results showed ethnic minority patients needed more help after being diagnosed.
“Dementia is a ‘silent killer’ disproportionately affecting Asian, Black and other ethnic minority groups, and tragically at a younger age. These results are essential and should be a call to action for the NHS and the social profession in general.
“Evidence shows that ethnic minority patients and carers are already more likely to be isolated from mainstream health services. Prolonged delays in seeking help, combined with often unresponsive health and care services not to diverse needs, can leave vulnerable dementia patients and their families in ‘crisis,'” he said.
Health and social care services “need to be more culturally responsive and sensitive to help close gaps in access, experience and health outcomes,” he added.
Mukadam said “targeted interventions” to raise awareness of the greater prevalence of certain risk factors in certain ethnic minorities and how they can affect brain health, such as diabetes among South Asians, can help. prevent the development of dementia.