Geographical variation in dementia: systematic review with meta-analysis

Tom C Russ, G David Batty, Gena F Hearnshaw, Candida Fenton, John M Starr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Geographical variation in dementia prevalence and incidence may indicate important socio-environmental contributions to dementia aetiology. However, previous comparisons have been hampered by combining studies with different methodologies. This review systematically collates and synthesizes studies examining geographical variation in the prevalence and incidence of dementia based on comparisons of studies using identical methodologies.
METHODS: Papers were identified by a comprehensive electronic search of relevant databases, scrutinising the reference sections of identified publications, contacting experts in the field and re-examining papers already known to us. Identified articles were independently reviewed against inclusion/exclusion criteria and considered according to geographical scale. Rural/urban comparisons were meta-analysed.
RESULTS: Twelve thousand five hundred and eighty records were reviewed and 51 articles were included. Dementia prevalence and incidence varies at a number of scales from the national down to small areas, including some evidence of an effect of rural living [prevalence odds ratio (OR) = 1.11, 90% confidence interval (CI) 0.79-1.57; incidence OR = 1.20, 90% CI 0.84-1.71]. However, this association of rurality was stronger for Alzheimer disease, particularly when early life rural living was captured (prevalence OR = 2.22, 90% CI 1.19-4.16; incidence OR = 1.64, 90% CI 1.08-2.50).
CONCLUSIONS: There is evidence of geographical variation in rates of dementia in affluent countries at a variety of geographical scales. Rural living is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer disease, and there is a suggestion that early life rural living further increases this risk. However, the fact that few studies have been conducted in resource-poor countries limits conclusions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1012-32
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Dementia
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Prevalence


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