Mild cognitive impairment: disparity of incidence and prevalence estimates

Alzheimers Dement. 2012 Jan;8(1):14-21. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2011.01.002.


Background: The purpose of conducting this study was to identify areas of concordance and sources of variation for the published rates of prevalence and incidence associated with various definitions for mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Methods: The study used systematic review of studies published in English since 1984. Studies were identified by searching MEDLINE and EMBASE databases. Population-based observational studies of incidence or prevalence of MCI and related terms were eligible for inclusion.

Results: A total of 3,705 citations were identified, and 42 were accepted for inclusion; 35 included data on prevalence and 13 on incidence. The following four terms predominated: age-associated memory impairment (AAMI); cognitive impairment no dementia (CIND); MCI; and amnestic MCI (aMCI). Within each term, the operational definition varied. Substantial variation was observed for both incidence (MCI: 21.5-71.3; aMCI: 8.5-25.9 per 1,000 person-years) and prevalence of each definition of cognitive impairment (AAMI 3.6%-38.4%; CIND 5.1%-35.9%; MCI 3%-42%; aMCI 0.5%-31.9%). CIND and MCI showed increasing prevalence among older age groups, whereas age-specific rates of aMCI were lower and without any apparent age relationship.

Conclusions: Prevalence and incidence estimates associated with MCI vary greatly both between definitions and within a definition across the 42 publications. These wide differences pose a significant challenge to our understanding of the social burden of this disease. Enhancement and standardization of operational definitions of the subtypes of cognitive impairment could improve estimates of disease burden and provide a mechanism to assist in the identification of individuals at risk for future Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology
  • Databases, Bibliographic / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Prevalence