NIA Uncovers Health Disparities in Alzheimer’s Research Studies Among Participants

Black participants with dementia in Alzheimer’s research have more dementia risk factors and greater cognitive impairment and neuropsychiatric symptoms than white participants, according to a study published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

The study was led by Keenan Walker, Ph.D., from the national institute of aging (NIA) Intramural Research Program and included 5,700 black and 31,225 white participants from 39 Alzheimer’s research centers. Of these patients, 27% of black participants and 36% of white participants had been diagnosed with dementia. The researchers examined racial differences in cognition, neuropsychiatric symptoms, and functional abilities among participants with dementia.

Black participants in Alzheimer’s disease studies were 35% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and related dementias than white participants. The study found that despite the lower prevalence of dementia in black participants, they had more risk factors. The researchers also found that neuropsychiatric symptoms were more common in blacks than in white participants who received similar diagnoses. According to their findings, delusions and hallucinations occurred twice as often in black participants as in white participants.

The researchers suggest that this disparity is due in part to social attitudes and beliefs within the African American community. “Many black older adults tend to seek medical treatment when they encounter neuropsychiatric symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and personality changes, but delay help for memory problems, which are often viewed as a normal part of aging,” the researchers said in the press release.