People who experience racism are more likely to experience memory problems in later life, a new study has suggested.
Results of two US-based studies suggest past discriminatory events experienced by people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds can have long-lasting effects on brain health on even the oldest in the population.
Following the unveiling of this research at Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2022 in the US, the UK’s leading Alzheimer’s charity has called upon the government to fulfil its pledge to fund more dementia research.
Previous reviews indicate that Black people are more at risk of dementia but less likely to receive a timely diagnosis due to multiple barriers in accessing healthcare.
Dr Richard Oakley, Associate Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “What’s shocking about these findings is that racism and discrimination doesn’t just have an immediate impact on people from ethnic minority communities, but can also lead to long lasting effects on brain health, increasing the chance of memory and thinking problems developing later in life.
“Of the 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK, 25,000 are from ethnic minority communities, so while these are American studies, it’s clear more also needs to be done to support these communities within the UK.
“Everyone deserves appropriate care when they face the immense challenges of dementia, but we know too many support services aren’t culturally aware, and we’ve heard from people in these communities that this is leaving them feeling unsupported and isolated.”
It’s been over two years since the UK government promised to deliver the Dementia Moonshot, which would double dementia research funding to £166m a year over the next decade.
“There is an urgent need of research and investment into exploring the experiences of ethnic minority communities, to ensure the development of more culturally appropriate services and resources, Dr Oakley added.
“But for research like this to happen, the government must commit to their promise of doubling dementia research funding.”
The number of Black and Asian people living with dementia is expected to double by 2026 with the steepest increase expected in South Asian communities, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
These groups were also “woefully underrepresented” in the few research studies that have been conducted.
The government has been approached for comment.