The relationships between age, sex, and the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer disease: a meta-analysis

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1998 Sep;55(9):809-15. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.55.9.809.


Background: Prevalence studies on dementia and Alzheimer disease (AD) have reported a positive association with age. However, the trend of the association in the oldest-old categories has been the subject of discussion. The relationship between sex and AD has been inconsistent with these studies. Prevalence rates are influenced by the survival and disease incidence. Incidence rates provide a better measure of disease risk.

Methods: English-language articles identified through a MEDLINE search on "incidence dementia" and "incidence Alzheimer's disease" were examined and references from identified articles were reviewed. Population-based studies using personal interviews, standard clinical diagnosis criteria (DSM-III for dementia, National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke-Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorder Association for AD) and reporting age-specific incidence rates were included in the meta-analysis. Data from the selected studies were extracted and verified. Mixed-effect models were used in the meta-analysis to accommodate the heterogeneity of the studies.

Results: Incident dementia and AD are associated with a significant quadratic age effect indicating that the increase in incidence rates slows down with the increase in age, although there is no sign of a decline in the incidence rates themselves. The odds ratios for women to develop incidence of dementia and AD relative to men are 1.18 (95% confidence interval, 0.95-1.46) and 1.56 (95% confidence interval, 1.16-2.10), respectively.

Conclusions: The acceleration of incidence rates for AD and dementia slows down with the increase in age, although we find no evidence of a rate decline. Women are at higher risk of developing AD than men.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Sex Factors