Cultural practices and disease processes may explain why Latino adults with dementia experience faster functional decline and higher rates of depression and anxiety, investigators say.

The researchers found a notable increase in anxiety and depression among Latinos with dementia when compared with Blacks and non-Hispanic whites, the AARP reported.

The investigators looked at rates of anxiety and depression among 5,000 people participants in a genetics study. When they analyzed data from different racial and cognitive cohorts, they found that 26% of Hispanics had anxiety when compared with Blacks (16%) or whites (11%), and more anxiety or depression when they had mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease than their peers with the same conditions, the AARP reported.

The findings deserve attention in part because dementia rates among Latinos are expected to increase sharply in the coming decades — growing by more than 800% by 2060, according to the researchers. Culturally competent care is also key to ensuring appropriate treatment, they said.

“We have lots of great evidence that medications and talk therapy help, but minorities have the lowest rates of getting this help,” Andrew Zaman, Ph.D., an adjunct instructor from the University of West Florida, told the AARP.

In other research presented at the symposium, investigators found that dementia also affects activities of daily living in Hispanics more than in Black or white patients. Assessment of these daily functioning abilities may be a better measure of dementia progression in these patients than tests of cognitive function. Testing can be subject to cultural bias, said researcher Andrea Ochoa Lopez, a doctoral student at the University of Houston, according to the AARP.

“Cognitive tests are helpful,” Lopez said, according to the organization, “but they don’t tell the whole story. The way people perform on these measures is influenced by other factors, like language, race and ethnicity.”

Additional reporting on these studies can be found here.