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According to a recent study published in the Lancet Healthy Longevity journal and conducted by researchers at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China, people belonging to lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more than three times as likely to experience early-onset dementia. Dementia refers to a group of degenerative mental diseases, wherein there is a serious loss of cognitive function that goes beyond normal ageing. Its symptoms include confusion, mood swings, long-term memory loss and a gradual loss of bodily functions. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia.
According to a Guardian report, researchers used UK BioBank data of more than 4,40,000 participants aged between 37 years and 73 years for the study. For the analysis of early-onset dementia, researchers looked at people under 60 years who did not have "prevalent dementia symptoms", while for the analysis of late-onset dementia they looked at people above 65 years or older at the end of the research period between 2007 and 2010, and later a follow up in 2022.
Authored by Rui Li and colleagues, the study looked at participants' household income, highest education qualification and employment status so as to determine their socioeconomic status, the report stated. In addition to that, it also considered a participant's lifestyle and how healthy it is by assessing if they smoked, consumed alcohol, their physical activity levels, and their diet.
"Early-onset dementia and late-onset dementia might have different risk factor profiles; although risk factors were similar, the magnitude of associations between risk factors and dementia incidence was greater for early-onset dementia.
"Only a small proportion of the socioeconomic inequity in dementia risk was mediated by healthy lifestyles, which indicates that measures other than healthy lifestyle promotion to improve social determinants of health are warranted," the study stated.
The results indicated that individuals of a lower socioeconomic status had a "three-times-higher risk of developing early-onset dementia" as compared to those who belonged to a higher socioeconomic background. It was also found that people from a lower socioeconomic background, who led an unhealthy life, had a whopping 440 per cent higher risk of developing early-onset dementia as compared to those from a higher socioeconomic background who lived a healthy lifestyle.
"Early-onset dementia refers to the onset of dementia before 65 years of age. Studies have estimated that 3.9 million people aged 30-64 years have early-onset dementia worldwide, and 3,70,000 people are newly diagnosed with early-onset dementia each year. Most studies primarily focus on late-onset dementia, which might marginalise the importance of dementia in younger people," the study stated.