Study: No racial disparity in life expectancy for dementia

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Although previous studies have indicated that blacks with dementia tend to live longer than whites with the disease, a new study finds that the condition decreases life expectancy equally among the races.

In their study of 1,715 elderly Chicago residents, researchers at Rush University Medical Center used a different approach than previous investigators. Rather than analyzing medical records to determine rates of decreased life expectancy, researchers performed a series of clinical exams, which included cognitive tests and medical histories for all study participants. Slightly more than half the participants were black. Of the trial subjects, 17.3% had Alzheimer's, 34.8% had a milder dementia, 1.2% had a different form of dementia and 46.8% had no impairments.

After a 10-year follow-up period, researchers confirmed that risk of premature death rises with severity of dementia. Patients with mild dementia were 50% more likely to die, while those with Alzheimer's were at a 300% greater risk. Unlike earlier studies, however, Rush University researchers found no racial disparity in their results. The full study appears in the June issue of the Archives of Neurology.