Background: National data on dementia prevalence are not always available, yet it may be possible to obtain estimates from large surveys that include dementia screening instruments. In Australia, many of the dementia prevalence estimates are based on European data collected between 15 and 50 years ago. We derived populationbased estimates of probable dementia and possible cognitive impairment in Australian studies using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), and compared these to estimates of dementia prevalence from meta-analyses of European studies.
Methods: Data sources included a pooled dataset of Australian longitudinal studies (DYNOPTA), and two Australian Bureau of Statistics National Surveys of Mental Health and Wellbeing. National rates of probable dementia (MMSE < 24) and possible cognitive impairment (24-26) were estimated using combined sample weights.
Results: Estimates of probable dementia were higher in surveys than in meta-analyses for ages 65-84, but were similar at ages 85 and older. Surveys used weights to account for sample bias, but no adjustments were made in metaanalyses. Results from DYNOPTA and meta-analyses had a very similar pattern of increase with age. Contrary to trends from some meta-analyses, rates of probable dementia were not higher among women in the Australian surveys. Lower education was associated with higher prevalence of probable dementia. Data from investigator-led longitudinal studies designed to assess cognitive decline appeared more reliable than government health surveys.
Conclusions: This study shows that estimates of probable dementia based on MMSE in studies where cognitive decline and dementia are a focus, are a useful adjunct to clinical studies of dementia prevalence. Such information and may be used to inform projections of dementia prevalence and the concomitant burden of disease.