OBJECTIVES: To estimate the incidence of dementia, Alzheimer's disease (AD), and vascular dementia (VaD) in older Italians and evaluate the relationship of age, gender, and education to developing dementia.
DESIGN: Cohort incidence study in the context of the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging.
SETTING: Population sample from eight Italian municipalities.
PARTICIPANTS: A dementia-free cohort of 3,208 individuals (aged 65–84), individuated after a baseline evaluation performed in 1992 / 93, aimed at detecting prevalent cases.
MEASUREMENTS: The dementia-free cohort was reexamined in 1995 to identify incident cases. The Mini-Mental State Examination (cutoff 23 / 24) was employed to screen for dementia. Trained neurologists evaluated the individuals who screened positive. Final diagnoses had to meet Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition, Revised criteria for dementia, National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke—Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association criteria for AD, and International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision criteria for VaD.
RESULTS: Before the follow-up examination, 382 individuals had died (232 had reliable information). Of the 2,826 survivors, 2,266 completed the study. Overall, 127 new dementia cases were identified. Average incidence rates per 1,000 person-years were 12.47 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 10.23–14.72) for dementia, 6.55 (95% CI = 4.92–8.17) for AD, and 3.30 (95% CI = 2.14–4.45) for VaD. Both AD and VaD showed age-dependent patterns. Education was protective against dementia and AD. Women carried a significantly higher risk of developing AD (hazard ratio = 1.67, 95% CI = 1.02–2.75), and men of developing VaD (hazard ratio = 2.23, 95% CI = 1.06–4.71).
CONCLUSIONS: Incidence of dementia in Italy paralleled that in most industrialized countries. About 150,000 new cases per year are expected. A significant gender effect was evidenced for major dementia subtypes. The burden of VaD, especially in men, offers opportunities for prevention.