Potentially modifiable dementia risk factors in all Australians and within population groups: an analysis using cross-sectional survey data

Elsevier, The Lancet. Public health, Volume 8, 1 September 2023
See R.S., Thompson F., Russell S., Quigley R., Esterman A., Harriss L.R. et al.

BACKGROUND: Dementia is the second leading cause of disease burden in Australia. We aimed to calculate the population attributable fractions (PAFs) of dementia attributable to 11 of 12 previously identified potentially modifiable health and social risk factors (less education, hearing loss, hypertension, obesity, smoking, depression, social isolation, physical inactivity, diabetes, alcohol excess, air pollution, and traumatic brain injury), for Australians overall and three population groups (First Nations, and those of European and Asian ancestry). METHODS: We calculated the prevalence of dementia risk factors (excluding traumatic brain injury) and PAFs, adjusted for communality, from the cross-sectional National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (2018-19), National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (2014-15), National Health Survey (2017-18), and General Social Survey (2014) conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. We conducted sensitivity analyses using proxy estimates for traumatic brain injury (12th known risk factor) for which national data were not available. FINDINGS: A large proportion (38·2%, 95% CI 37·2-39·2) of dementia in Australia was theoretically attributable to the 11 risk factors; 44·9% (43·1-46·7) for First Nations Australians, 36·4% (34·8-38·1) for European ancestry, and 33·6% (30·1-37·2) for Asian ancestry. Including traumatic brain injury increased the PAF to 40·6% (39·6-41·6) for all Australians. Physical inactivity (8·3%, 7·5-9·2), hearing loss (7·0%, 6·4-7·6), and obesity (6·6%, 6·0-7·3) accounted for approximately half of the total PAF estimates across Australia, and for all three population groups. INTERPRETATION: Our PAF estimates indicate a substantial proportion of dementia in Australia is potentially preventable, which is broadly consistent with global trends and results from other countries. The highest potential for dementia prevention was among First Nations Australians, reflecting the enduring effect of upstream social, political, environmental, and economic disadvantage, leading to greater life-course exposure to dementia risk factors. Although there were common dementia risk factors across different population groups, prevention strategies should be informed by community consultation and be culturally and linguistically appropriate. FUNDING: Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and University College London Hospitals' National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre, and North Thames NIHR Applied Research Collaboration.