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Dementia in Aboriginal Australians three times as likely

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Dementia is three times more likely among Aboriginal Australians than that of Australia’s non-Indigenous population, a new study finds.

Professor Tony Broe, senior principal research fellow at NeuRA (Neuroscience Research Australia), conducted the Koori Growing Old Well Study; a census of all resident Aboriginal people aged 60 years and over.

The census covered five urban and regional indigenous communities: Kempsey, Nambucca, Coffs Harbour, La Perouse and Campbelltown.

Most Aboriginal Australians live in urban or regional areas like these, with only about 30 per cent living in remote areas.

“The number of older Aboriginal Australians is increasing rapidly, and yet little is known about their health and dementia rates,” Broe said.

“A previous study in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia found higher rates of dementia at younger ages, but research in the majority urban population has been lacking.”

He added, “Like remote communities, however, Aboriginal people in urban areas have a disproportionately high burden of many of the risk factors and systemic diseases that have been linked to dementia in studies around the world. Improved understanding of this issue has important implications for ensuring access to appropriate services for Aboriginal people with dementia and their families and for future service development.”

Glenn Rees, CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, said that this study yet again demonstrates the need for increased research.

“This would help us provide culturally appropriate services for Australia’s indigenous community,” Rees said.

The researchers believe that the higher rate of dementia in Aboriginal Australian’s could be associated with factors across the whole life course, from disadvantage in early childhood onwards, and including mid-late life systemic diseases. This will be addressed in forthcoming analyses.

“What’s important now is that the major gaps revealed by this research in Aboriginal health are followed as rapidly as possible by health service provision for the participating Aboriginal communities,” Broe said.

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