woman with dementia sitting in chair

The incidence of cognitive decline more than doubled between 2009 and 2018 among seniors, according to a study published Thursday.

Investigators sought to track the number of people reporting first concerns about memory loss to their doctors and their subsequent chance of developing dementia. To do so, they examined data from 1.3 million adults aged 65 to 99 years old. 

In 2009, physicians recorded 1 new case of cognitive decline for every 1,000 patients observed. This number rose to 3 new recorded cases per 1,000 by 2018. The number of patients reporting concerns about memory remained stable during the study period.

Dementia diagnoses

Within three years of a reported memory concern, 46% of patients developed dementia. For people with cognitive decline, 52% went on to develop dementia, investigators wrote.

Notably, among adults aged 80 years and older, women, and people living in relatively deprived areas were more likely to express memory concerns or be diagnosed with cognitive decline, the researchers wrote. In these cases, the symptoms were more likely to progress to dementia diagnoses, they added.

“Memory concerns and cognitive decline are not only hallmark symptoms of dementia, but they also predict a high risk of developing dementia,” said Brendan Hallam, a Ph.D. candidate from University College of London in the United Kingdom. “It is important for general practitioners to identify people with memory concerns as soon as possible to deliver recommendations to improve memory and allow timely diagnosis of dementia.”

Full findings were published in the journal Clinical Epidemiology.