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Poor people are 50% more likely to develop dementia due to them being socially cut off, study finds

  • The 20% most deprived are 50% more at risk than the wealthiest 20%
  • Researchers believe difference in lifestyle factors may be behind the results
  • Poor people may also lack social opportunities that keep their minds engaged
  • Dementia is an overall term for a decline in memory and thinking skills
  • It has 850,000 sufferers in the UK, of which up to 80% have Alzheimer's disease

Poor people are more likely to develop dementia, new research suggests.

The 20 per cent most deprived adults in England are 50 per cent more likely to suffer from severe memory loss than the wealthiest 20 per cent, a study found today.

Study author Professor Andrew Steptoe, from University College London, said: 'Our study confirms that the risk of dementia is reduced among well-off older people compared with those who have fewer economic resources.

'Many factors could be involved. Differences in healthy lifestyle and medical risk factors are relevant.

'It may also be that better off people have greater social and cultural opportunities that allow them to remain actively engaged with the world.'

Dementia is an overall term for a decline in memory and thinking skills that affects a person's daily life. The condition has 850,000 sufferers in the UK, of which up to 80 per cent have Alzheimer's disease. 

Poor people are more likely to develop dementia, new research suggests (stock)

Poor people are more likely to develop dementia, new research suggests (stock)


Aerobic exercise such as walking and running may halt dementia by preventing the brain from shrinking, research suggested in November 2017.

Being active several times a week maintains the size of the region of the brain associated with memory, a study found.

Known as the hippocampus, this region is often one of the first to deteriorate in Alzheimer's patients.

Lead author Joseph Firth from the Western Sydney University, said: 'When you exercise you produce a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which may help to prevent age-related decline by reducing the deterioration of the brain.

'In other words, exercise can be seen as a maintenance programme for the brain.'

The scientists, from the universities of Western Sydney and Manchester, analysed 14 studies with a total of 737 participants.

The participants were aged between 24 and 76, with an average age of 66.

They were made up of healthy individuals, Alzheimer's patients and people with mental health problems, such as depression and schizophrenia.

Scans of the participants' brains were investigated before and after completing exercise, such as walking or treadmill running.

The exercise programmes lasted between three months and two years, with participants completing two to five sessions a week.  

'Socio-economic determinants influence dementia '

Study author Dr Dorina Cadar said: 'Dementia is a progressive neurodegenerative condition with devastating consequences to individuals, their families and governments around the world.

'Our efforts are unified in identifying the risk factors associated with a delay in the onset of dementia or a slower progression.

'Our findings demonstrate that socio-economic determinants influence dementia incidence, suggesting a higher risk for individuals with fewer financial resources. 

'We hope our findings help inform public health strategies for dementia prevention evidencing why socio-economic gaps should be targeted to reduce health disparities and enhance engagement in socio-cultural activities that ultimately contribute to a higher mental resilience or cognitive reserve.'    

“Money can't buy love” – but it can help the brain' 

Professor Tom Dening, from the University of Nottingham, said: 'Money is not the meaning of life (in my humble opinion) but it can help in terms of where you live and the social opportunities that are available to you in later life. 

'It is likely that if wealth is associated with a lower risk of getting dementia, then it acts through these mechanisms, including contributing to better general health. 

'It is however important to point out that the reduction in risk is still relatively small and being wealthy doesn't prevent dementia. 

“Money can't buy me love” – but maybe it can help the brain a bit.' 

The 20 per cent most deprived adults in England are 50 per cent more likely to suffer from memory loss and a decline in thinking skills than the wealthiest 20 per cent (stock)

The 20 per cent most deprived adults in England are 50 per cent more likely to suffer from memory loss and a decline in thinking skills than the wealthiest 20 per cent (stock)


A breakthrough Alzheimer's drug edges scientists one step closer to a cure, new research suggested in November 2017.

Taken twice a day, a tablet, known as LMTX, significantly improves dementia sufferers' brain injuries to the extent their MRI scans resemble those of healthy people after just nine months, a study found.

Lead author Professor Gordon Wilcock from the University of Oxford told MailOnline: 'I haven't seen such brain injury recovery before after a drug treatment.'

LMTX, which is under investigation, also significantly improves patients' abilities to carry out everyday tasks such as bathing and dressing themselves, while also boosting their capabilities to correctly name objects and remember the date, the research adds.

The drug contains a chemical that dissolves protein 'tangles' in the brain that clump together to form plaques in the region associated with memory, according to its manufacturer TauRx Pharmaceuticals.

Dissolving these tangles and preventing the formation of new plaques may slow or even halt memory loss in dementia sufferers, the pharma company adds. 

The researchers, from the universities of Oxford and Aberdeen, analysed 800 Alzheimer's patients across 12 countries.

The study's participants received either 100mg or 4mg LMTX tablets twice a day for 18 months.

They were tested on their ability to name objects, follow commands such as 'make a fist', recall items from a list of 10 and identify their name, the time and date.

Their ability to eat without help, use a telephone, wash and dress themselves, and control their bowel and bladder was also assessed.

MRI scans monitored the participants' brain injury. 

How the research was carried out 

The researchers analysed 6,220 adults aged over 65 who were born between 1902 and 1943.

The participants were taken from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and are considered to be representative of the general population.

Dementia diagnoses were made by doctors and questionnaires assessing cognitive decline.  

The findings were published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Hybrid diet that prevents dementia  

This comes after research released last January suggested scientists have created a hybrid diet that is proven to prevent dementia.

A combination of the Mediterranean way of eating and the so-called low-fat DASH diet maintains at-risk people's thinking, reasoning and memories, a study found.

Followers of such eating habits, in a diet known as MIND, are required to consume nine foods or drinks regularly, including at least one portion of green leafy vegetables a day, berries twice a week and even a daily glass of wine, the research adds.

It also allows dieters to munch on sweets and pastries, providing they limit themselves to just four times a week, the study found.

When stroke survivors who suffered cognitive decline followed the MIND diet for up to 13 years, their risk of developing dementia significantly reduced, with researchers stressing such eating habits will also benefit the brains of healthy people.

Study author Dr Laurel Cherian, from Rush University, said: 'The goal is to emphasize foods that will not only lower our risk of heart attacks and stroke, but make our brains as resilient as possible to cognitive decline.  

'The Mediterranean and DASH diets have been shown to be protective against coronary artery disease and stroke, but it seems the nutrients emphasized in the MIND diet may be better suited to overall brain health and preserving cognition.'

According to Dr Cherian, previous studies link nutrients such as folate, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids to reduced cognitive decline, while unhealthy fats are associated with dementia.

He added: 'I like to think of the MIND diet as a way to supercharge the nutritional content of what we eat.' 

Tags Health

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Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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