Background: The increase in average life expectancy increases the risk of illness and frailty in the elderly, especially in the cognitive arena. This study has the objective to estimate the prevalence and incidence of cognitive impairment, in a representative sample of 65 to 85 years old followed for a mean period of 6-years.
Methods: Subjects aged 65-85 years (n = 586) were screened at baseline (1999-2004) to estimate the prevalence of cognitive impairment using the Mini-Mental State Examination. A total of 287 individuals with a normal MMSE at baseline were reassessed after 6.2 mean years (± 4.30 years) to evaluate the incidence of cognitive impairment, defined as scoring below the age and education-adjusted MMSE cut-off points adapted for the Portuguese population. We did not exclude Dementia.
Results: The baseline prevalence of cognitive impairment was 15.5% (95% CI: 12.7-18.7). Higher in women (18.9%; 95% CI: 14.9-23.3), that in men (10.4%; 95% CI: 6.7-15.1). Increased with age and was highest for participants without any schooling. The overall incidence rate was 26.97 per 1000 person-years; higher in women (33.8 per 1000 person-years) than in men (18.0 per 1000 person-years). Higher for the oldest participants and those with no schooling. Taking the standard European population, we estimated a prevalence of 16.5% and an incidence of 34.4 per 1000 person-years.
Conclusion: The prevalence of cognitive impairment in Portugal is within the estimated interval for the European population, and the incidence is lower than for the majority of the European countries. Women, senior and elders without education have a higher risk of cognitive impairment. In our sample, neither employment nor marital status has a significant effect on cognitive impairment.
Keywords: Cognitive impairment; EPIPorto; Incidence; Population-based cohort; Prevalence.