Geographical variation in dementia: Examining the role of environmental factors in Sweden and Scotland

Tom C Russ, Margaret Gatz, Nancy L Pedersen, Jean Hannah, Grant Wyper, G David Batty, Ian J Deary, John M Starr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: This study aimed to estimate the magnitude of geographical variation in dementia rates and suggest explanations for this variation. Small-area studies are scarce, and none has adequately investigated the relative contribution of genetic and environmental factors to the distribution of dementia.

METHODS: We present 2 complementary small-area hierarchical Bayesian disease-mapping studies using the comprehensive Swedish Twin Registry (n = 27,680) and the 1932 Scottish Mental Survey cohort (n = 37,597). The twin study allowed us to examine the effect of unshared environmental factors. The Scottish Mental Survey study allowed us to examine various epochs in the life course-approximately age 11 years and adulthood.

RESULTS: We found a 2- to 3-fold geographical variation in dementia odds in Sweden, after twin random effects-likely to capture genetic and shared environmental variance-were removed. In Scotland, we found no variation in dementia odds in childhood but substantial variation, following a broadly similar pattern to Sweden, by adulthood.

CONCLUSIONS: There is geographical variation in dementia rates. Most of this variation is likely to result from unshared environmental factors that have their effect in adolescence or later. Further work is required to confirm these findings and identify any potentially modifiable socioenvironmental risk factors for dementia responsible for this geographical variation in risk. However, if these factors do exist and could be optimized in the whole population, our results suggest that dementia rates could be halved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-270
Issue number2
Early online date8 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


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