Prevalence of dementia among Veterans Affairs medical care system users

Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2005;20(4):245-53. doi: 10.1159/000087345. Epub 2005 Aug 8.


Objectives: In an aging population, the number of veterans diagnosed with dementia is likely to increase. Knowledge of existing dementia prevalence will be beneficial in planning for future patient care needs. Our objectives were to assess the prevalence of the dementia diagnosis among those treated at Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers and determine how it varies across race and Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN).

Materials and methods: Data were collected on all veterans seen within the VA medical system from 1997 through the first half of 2001. Only veterans aged 65 and over were included in the study. Veterans were included if they had one of the following dementia ICD-9 codes: 290.XX, 291.2, 294.XX, 331.XX, 046.1, or 046.3.

Results: The overall prevalence of dementia was 7.3%. The prevalence of dementia was similar among white patients and patients of other races, except African-American patients, in whom it was 50% higher. Across VISNs, the prevalence of dementia ranged from 5.8 to 9.4%. Alzheimer's disease was the most frequently diagnosed type of dementia within the VA, and inpatient service utilization and outpatient psychiatry visits by individuals with dementia were high relative to other VA patients.

Discussion: The overall prevalence identified is consistent with that reported in the literature, as is the elevated prevalence in African-Americans versus whites. The data on prevalence by VISN may identify regional variation in either the types of dementia present or the diagnostic criteria used. The dementia diagnosis is clearly associated with substantial service use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Health Resources / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Male
  • Outpatients
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data*