TUESDAY, Feb. 14, 2023 (HealthDay News) — State-level educational quality during childhood is associated with incident dementia in older adults, according to a study published online Feb. 13 in JAMA Neurology.

Yenee Soh, Sc.D., from Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, and colleagues evaluated the association between state-level educational quality during childhood and dementia risk. The analysis included 20,778 Kaiser Permanente Northern California members who completed a survey between 1964 and 1972 and were followed from 1997 through 2019. Eligible individuals were born in the United States, were non-Hispanic Black or non-Hispanic White, were aged 65 years or older as of Jan. 1, 1996, were still alive, and had not received a dementia diagnosis.

The researchers found that the highest educational quality tertiles were associated with lower dementia risk versus the lowest tertiles (hazard ratios, 0.88, 0.80, and 0.79 for student-teacher ratio, attendance rates, and term length, respectively). Effect estimates were similar across races and were not impacted by adjustment for educational attainment. However, Black individuals (76.2 to 86.1 percent) more often attended schools in states in the lowest educational quality tertiles compared with White individuals (20.8 to 23.3 percent).

“These findings suggest that state-level investments to improve educational quality matter and systemic factors contributing to unequal distribution of such investments among racial and ethnic minority groups should be considered to address dementia disparities,” the authors write.

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