People living in regions with deprived, disadvantaged conditions have higher probabilities of suffering cognitive dysfunctions than those living in regions with more developed living conditions, according to a study from the University of Ulster in United Kingdom, led by Professor Helene McNulty. The results of the research based on Ireland data revealed the importance of social and economic factors in the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s, and were recently presented at the annual Scientific Meeting of the Irish Gerontological Society in Galway.
Dr. McNulty and her colleges analyzed data from the TUDA Aging north-south cohort study, which includes more than 5,000 older people in Ireland. The researchers were able to demonstrate that in addition to indicators such as low levels of education, people living in deprived regions in the North and South of Ireland are more susceptible to suffering cognitive impairment or even other mental illnesses such as dementia.
“The overall results of our study suggest that older people living in the most deprived areas in Ireland, North and South, are at higher risk of poor mental health and developing cognitive impairment,” said Professor McNulty, noting that older people from deprived ares were found to suffer a higher risk of poor cognitive health, compared to people the same age on the least deprived regions. “We should target resources and strategies at this group to reduce the risk of developing cognitive impairment.”
The study, which was supported by the Centre for Aging Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI), verified that people who live in more disadvantaged areas of Ireland had three fewer years of education, as well as higher probability of anxiety and depression, higher levels of body mass index, lower rates of physical activity, and were heavier smokers compared to the populations of the least deprived regions.
“These are important findings and we must give priority across the island of Ireland to tackling the inequalities that this report highlights in mental health, ideally beginning at an early age,” added Professor Davis Coakley, co-chair of CARDI.