Erica Kornblith, PhD Assistant Professor, Psychiatry UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences

Strong Evidence for Differences in Dementia Risk by Race and Ethnicity Interview with:

Erica Kornblith, PhD Assistant Professor, Psychiatry UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences

Dr. Kornblith

Erica Kornblith, PhD
Assistant Professor, Psychiatry
UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings? 

Response: As the population of the United States grows more diverse and dementia is a serious public health concern, we hoped to understand whether differences in dementia risk exist based on race or ethnicity.  Older studies have shown that Black and Hispanic folks have higher risk of dementia, perhaps due to medical risk factors, diagnostic bias, lack of equal access to health care and education, or the health effects of racism, among other factors.  However, these older studies have been small or limited geographically or by only studying a few race and ethnicity groups. Our study used a nationwide sample of almost two million older Veterans who all had access to care through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and we examined 5 race or ethnicity groups: American Indians or Alaska Natives, Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites.

Our results show that dementia risk is higher for Black and Hispanic Veterans compared to white Veterans, even when education and medical factors are considered. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our work provides strong evidence for differences in dementia risk by race and ethnicity, even among folks who all have access to health care through the VA.  Our work does not tell us why these differences exist, or how to go about fixing them.  However, our findings should raise serious concern about how health disparities may be impacting our elders in terms of dementia risk. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Our team is already working on studies that will begin to tease apart the complicated web of factors driving the relationship between race/ethnicity and dementia.  We are looking closely at social and structural factors as well as the impact of place of birth.  Our goal is to develop a line of research that eventually would lead to targeted interventions for the most at-risk individuals as well as larger-scale interventions aimed to modify some of the environmental and social differences that may underlie inequities in dementia risk.

Disclosures: Dr. Yaffe serves on Data Safety Monitoring Boards for Eli Lilly and several National Institute on Aging-sponsored trials and serves on the board of directors for Alector, Inc.


Kornblith E, Bahorik A, Boscardin WJ, Xia F, Barnes DE, Yaffe K. Association of Race and Ethnicity With Incidence of Dementia Among Older Adults. JAMA. 2022;327(15):1488–1495. doi:10.1001/jama.2022.3550

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Last Updated on April 20, 2022 by Marie Benz MD FAAD