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Dementia and Cognitive Impairment Prevalence and Associated Factors in Indigenous Populations

A Systematic Review

de Souza-Talarico, Juliana N. PhD; de Carvalho, Anna P. MSc; Brucki, Sonia M.D. PhD; Nitrini, Ricardo PhD; Ferretti-Rebustini, Renata PhD

Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders: July–September 2016 - Volume 30 - Issue 3 - p 281–287
doi: 10.1097/WAD.0000000000000140
Review Article

Population aging has been accompanied by worldwide growth in dementia. However, little is known about the prevalence of dementia and cognitive impairment not dementia in ethnically diverse populations, such as indigenous populations conceptualized as groups of persons who self-identify as indigenous and who are recognized as distinctive communities reproducing ancestral, historical, and territorial culture. This is particularly relevant in view of increasing life expectancy in indigenous populations and, consequently, in the number of elderly people, as well as the changes in their multimorbidity profile. In this study, a systematic review of the literature on the subject “cognitive impairment in indigenous elderly population” in the databases MEDLINE via PubMed, Lilacs, and Scopus showed that the prevalence of dementia in indigenous populations between 45 and 94 years old, originally from different countries, varied between 0.5% and 26.8% for age 60 and older, whereas the prevalence of cognitive impairment not dementia varied between 4.4% and 17.7%. Early onset of the disease, older age, low education level, and several poor health conditions were associated with prevalence rates and conversion from normal to any cognitive impairment. Cultural inadequacy of neuropsychological tests was the main factor reported in the selected studies, which makes the investigation of dementia a challenge in indigenous populations. These data reveal that the prevalence rates of dementia ranged from low to very high for those aged 60 years and older, with early onset of the disease and elevated mortality rate after initial diagnosis compared with the current global prevalence studies, suggesting that these individuals may be more vulnerable to cognitive disorders. Cognitive reserve and exposure to poor health status throughout life span may be considered in the interpretation of results.

*Department of Medical-Surgical Nursing, School of Nursing

Department of Neurology, Medical School, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

The authors declare no conflicts of interest with any of the following organizations: National Institutes of Health (NIH); Wellcome Trust; Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI); and other(s).

Reprints: Juliana N. de Souza-Talarico, PhD, Department of Medical-Surgical Nursing, School of Nursing, University of São Paulo, São Paulo 05403 000, Brazil (e-mail:

Received March 27, 2015

Accepted December 28, 2015

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