Association of Neighborhood-Level Socioeconomic Measures With Cognition and Dementia Risk in Australian Adults

May 29, 2022

Authors: Matthew P Pase, Ella Rowsthorn, Marina G Cavuoto, Alexandra Lavale, Nawaf Yassi, Paul Maruff, Rachel F Buckley, Yen Ying Lim

Journal: JAMA Network Open

DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.4071

Year Published: 2022


Up to 40% of dementia cases are potentially preventable; therefore, it is important to identify high-risk groups to whom resources could be targeted for maximal impact in preventing late-life dementia. The association of neighborhood-level socioeconomic status (SES) with cognition and dementia risk is not well known, particularly in midlife when late-life dementia may still be preventable through established interventions, such as blood pressure management.


To examine whether neighborhood-level SES is associated with differences in cognitive performance and dementia risk scores.

Design, setting, and participants:

This cross-sectional study analyzed data collected between November 17, 2016, and April 14, 2020, from 4656 participants in the longitudinal population-based Healthy Brain Project cohort. This large online cohort comprised community-dwelling individuals geographically dispersed across Australia. Participants were aged 40 to 70 years without dementia or other major neurological conditions.


Neighborhood-level SES was computed by matching participants’ residential addresses to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Index of Relative Socio-economic Advantage and Disadvantage (IRSAD). Postcodes provided by each participant were used to derive an IRSAD score that ranked participants according to deciles of neighborhood-level SES (range, 1-10, with higher deciles indicating greater socioeconomic advantage); neighborhoods in deciles 1 to 7 were considered to have low or intermediate SES, and neighborhoods in deciles 8 to 10 were considered to have high SES.

Main outcomes and measures:

Dementia risk estimated using the dementia risk score from the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging, and Incidence of Dementia (CAIDE) tool (n = 4656) and cognitive composite scores for memory and attention measured by the Cogstate Brief Battery (n = 2181).


Of 4656 participants (mean [SD] age, 56.1 [7.2] years; 3445 women [74.0%]), 2688 individuals (57.7%) lived in areas with high neighborhood-level SES (IRSAD decile ≥8), and 1968 (42.3%) lived in areas with low or intermediate neighborhood-level SES (IRSAD decile <8), with 1263 individuals (27.1%) residing in rural or regional areas. A total of 6 participants (0.1%) identified as African, 121 (2.6%) as Asian, 57 (1.2%) as Indigenous Australian, 24 (0.5%) as Latin American, 9 (0.2%) as Pacific Islander, 3671 (78.8%) as White or European, and 768 (16.5%) indicated other race (not specified). Each decile unit increase in neighborhood-level SES was associated with a lower CAIDE dementia risk score after adjustment for race and rurality (β [SE] = -0.070 [0.019]; P = .004). Each decile unit increase was also associated with better memory (β [SE] = 0.022 [0.006]; P = .006) but not with better attention (β [SE] = 0.009 [0.007]; P = .34), as measured by Cogstate Brief Battery composite z scores after adjustment for age, sex, race, years of education, and rurality. When comparing memory performance between individuals with IRSAD scores higher and lower than decile 8, neighborhood-level SES interacted with age (F1-2171 = 6.33; P = .02) and CAIDE dementia risk scores (F1-2173 = 4.02; P = .08). Differences in memory between neighborhood-level SES categories were larger among participants who were older and had a higher risk of dementia.

Conclusions and relevance:

In this study, higher neighborhood-level SES was associated with better memory and lower dementia risk scores. These results suggest that efforts to lower dementia risk factors in disadvantaged areas are needed to curtail the increasing burden of dementia and that inclusion of individuals living in areas with lower SES in research on dementia is warranted to improve understanding and potential interventions.

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