The condition, a collective term for the loss of memory and thinking skills, was seen least in people from British Asian backgrounds, the authors from University College London and King’s College London found.
It is the first study to compare incidence of dementia and diagnosis across white, black, and Asian ethnic backgrounds, and between genders, and is published in the journal Clinical Epidemiology on Tuesday.
“What we found suggests that the rates of people receiving a diagnosis may be lower than the actual rates of dementia in certain groups, particularly among black men,” one of the authors, Dr Tra My Pham, from UCL’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health, said.
“It is concerning that black people appear to be more at risk of dementia but less likely to receive a timely diagnosis.”
The authors say they cannot fully explain the low rates of dementia in people from Asian background. Health inequalities like cardiovascular disease which contribute to dementia are common in Asian and black communities.
“Our new findings may reflect, for example, that there are inequalities in the care people receive to prevent and treat illnesses associated with dementia,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Claudia Cooper, from UCL. “Or perhaps GPs or patients’ families are reluctant to name dementia in communities where more stigma is associated with a dementia diagnosis.”
“Perhaps British Asians do have a lower risk, or they may only be less likely to be diagnosed when they develop it. “
They analysed data on more than 2.5 million people – including 66,083 who had a dementia diagnosis – from 645 GP practices across the UK between 2007 and 2015.
Compared to white women, it found the incidence of dementia diagnosis was 18 per cent lower among Asian women and 25 per cent higher among black women.
For men, incidence of dementia diagnosis was 28 per cent higher among the black men, and 12 per cent lower in Asian men, compared to white men, the study found.
The researchers also compared the diagnosis rates to what could be expected for the different ethnic groups as predicted by prior research.
Despite higher diagnosis rates, the authors concluded that black men with dementia were still less likely to receive a diagnosis compared with white men.
Wesley Dowridge, a member of KCL’s advisory group on social care users and carers said: “As a black carer and one of the Windrush generation, these findings make me think about why black people I know have been reluctant to seek help for memory problems: worries about being treated fairly, or about being put in a care home.”
“The report suggests that black men and women in the UK may face the combined impact of a greater likelihood of developing dementia, while being less likely to receive a formal diagnosis, which opens the door to care and support,” Dr Alison Evans, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said.
More about: dementia