Literacy and education may prevent the development of
dementia, suggests new research.
Martin Prince et al at
the King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry conducted a cohort study to
evaluate the dementia incidence and mortality in the middle-income nations. The
study was the largest of its kind and was published in the Lancet 2012.
cohort study was conducted on all individuals aged 65 years and above who lived
in the urban region of Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and
China. In total about 12,800 people were enrolled for the study.
obtained regarding age in years, educational level, sex, literacy, household
assets, occupational attainments and mortality.
The information was
used to analyze the incidence of dementia and to assess whether factors such as
literacy and education provided safety against dementia development.
The study findings
suggested that incidence of dementia in the middle-income nations was almost
the same as in higher-income countries. The study highlighted an important fact
that education provided considerable protection against dementia in both the
less-developed and developed countries.
approach for diagnosing dementia that is more sensitive in detecting mild to
moderate dementia cases have revealed the dementia incidence to be 1.5 to 2.5
times greater than those detected by standard DSM-IV criteria.
Earlier studies using
the popular western diagnostic approaches like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders (DSM) have shown that the rate of dementia incidence might
be significantly greater in low-and-middle income nations in contrast to
Prince stated, 'Our studies provide supportive evidence for the cognitive
reserve hypothesis-that better brain development can mitigate the effects of
neurodegeneration in later-life. Our findings suggest that early life
influences, education and learning to read and write, may be particularly
important for reducing the risk of dementia in late life. We need to understand
more about cognitive reserve, how to measure it, and how it is stimulated
He further added, 'The
high incidence of dementia in less developed countries reminds us that we are facing
a global epidemic, and there needs to be more focus on prevention.'
In the beginning of
the study the dementia affected people were predisposed to three-fold higher
risk of dying as compared to dementia-free individuals. The study also revealed
that 10/66 incidences of dementia were independently related to advancing age,
low education level and being female. Occupational attainment has no
association with dementia incidence.
It was concluded that
literacy and education offered protection against dementia development. The
experts said, 'The protective effects of education seem to extend to settings
where many older people have little or no formal education, and literacy
confers an additional independent benefit. These findings...support the notion that
cognitive reserve might counter the effects of neurodegeneration later in
Dementia incidence and mortality in
middle-income countries, and associations with indicators of cognitive reserve:
a 10/66 Dementia Research Group population-based cohort study; Martin Prince et
al; The Lancet Online Publication 2012.