Dementia and disadvantage in the USA and England: population-based comparative study

Karolos Arapakis, Eric J Brunner, Eric French, Jeremy E McCauley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
63 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: To compare dementia prevalence and how it varies by socioeconomic status (SES) across the USA and England.

Design: Population-based comparative study.

Setting: Non-Hispanic whites aged over 70 population in the USA and England.

Participants: Data from the Health and Retirement Study and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, which are harmonised, nationally representative panel studies. The sample includes 5330 and 3147 individuals in the USA and England, respectively.

Main outcome measures: Between country differences in age-gender standardised dementia prevalence, across the SES gradient. Dementia prevalence was estimated in each country using an algorithm based on an identical battery of demographic, cognitive and functional measures.

Results: Dementia prevalence is higher among the disadvantaged in both countries, with the USA being more unequal according to four measures of SES. Overall prevalence was lower in England at 9.7% (95% CI 8.9% to 10.6%) than the USA at 11.2% (95% CI 10.6% to 11.8%), a difference of 1.4 percentage points (pp) (p=0.0055). Most of the between country difference is driven by the bottom of the SES distribution. In the lowest income decile individuals in the USA had 7.3 pp (p<0.0001) higher prevalence than in England. Once past health factors and education were controlled for, most of the within country inequalities disappeared; however, the cross-country difference in prevalence for those in lowest income decile remained disproportionately high.

Conclusions: There is inequality in dementia prevalence according to income, wealth and education in both the USA and England. England has lower dementia prevalence and a less steep SES gradient. Most of the cross-country difference is concentrated in the lowest SES group, which provides evidence that disadvantage in the USA is a disproportionately high risk factor for dementia.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere045186
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.

Structured keywords

  • ECON CEPS Health
  • ECON Applied Economics


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