Community & Lifestyle

Rural dwellers less likely to develop dementia, study finds

Sheep Central, November 29, 2023

AUSTRALIANS who enjoy life in the bush could be at less risk of suffering from dementia.


City slickers are 1.12 times more likely to develop the serious brain disorder compared to their regional counterparts, new research by the University of Southern Queensland has found.

The study published in PLOS One was conducted by PhD student Rezwanul Haque using the latest available data from the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC), a nationally representative database collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics about the health of the Australian population.

This is the first study to establish a link between dementia risk and geographic remoteness from an Australian perspective. Moreover, the study also explores the recent changes in dementia prevalence.

For people living in outer regional and remote areas, the prevalence was 3,760 per 100,000 in 2018 – a 21 per cent decrease from 2015, despite dementia rates across the population increasing from 0.84 per cent to 0.89 per cent.

Conversely, there was an 11 per cent increase in dementia among people living in major cities between 2015 and 2018.

Mr Haque’s supervisor and co-author Professor Khorshed Alam said environmental factors could be one of the reasons why people living in the bush are less likely to develop dementia.

“Earlier research identified chronic noise exposure, air pollution and a paucity of green space as probable risk factors for cognition reduction, which are more prevalent in metropolitan areas than rural and remote communities,” he said.

The strength of the research was the use of the SDAC dataset which included data on dementia prevalence collected from both households and cared accommodation, whereas previous studies either used data that didn’t present geographical differences or were conducted using routinely collected aged care institutional data.

Despite regional areas seeing a decline in dementia prevalence rates, Mr Haque said dementia was a significant health problem among older Australians, with one in 20 people aged over 65 nationally having dementia according to the SDAC dataset.

“There is currently no cure for any form of dementia,” he said.

“Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, undernutrition, depression and brain injuries have increased over time in Australia, which may all be a factor in the rise in dementia rates.

“Australia’s ageing population is expected to grow even older in the coming decades, which will drive up dementia rates and put more pressure on families, health care systems and communities.”

Professor Alam said policymakers should take note of the findings to come up with solutions to deal with the disease.

“Additional funding is needed for vital services such as memory clinics, geriatric assessments and home visits for older adults, services for older adults’ mental health, hospital-to-residential aged care transition services, and assistance for those who are exhibiting behavioural and psychological signs of dementia,” he said.

The study ‘Changes in the prevalence of dementia in Australia and its association with geographic remoteness’ was co-authored with Professor Christine Neville and Professor Jeff Gow from the University of Southern Queensland.

Source: UniSQ. The study can be found here.


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