Dementia diagnosis disparities by race and ethnicity

Date: August 1, 2021
Journal: Medical Care
Citation: Lin PJ, Daly AT, Olchanski N, Cohen JT, Neumann PJ, Faul JD, Fillit HM, Freund KM. Dementia diagnosis disparities by race and ethnicity. Medical Care 2021;59(8):679–86.



Dementia is often underdiagnosed and this problem is more common among some ethnoracial groups.


The objective of this study was to examine racial and ethnic disparities in the timeliness of receiving a clinical diagnosis of dementia.

Research Design

This was a prospective cohort study.


A total of 3966 participants age 70 years and above with probable dementia in the Health and Retirement Study, linked with their Medicare and Medicaid claims.


We performed logistic regression to compare the likelihood of having a missed or delayed dementia diagnosis in claims by race/ethnicity. We analyzed dementia severity, measured by cognition and daily function, at the time of a dementia diagnosis documented in claims, and estimated average dementia diagnosis delay, by race/ethnicity.


A higher proportion of non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics had a missed/delayed clinical dementia diagnosis compared with non-Hispanic Whites (46% and 54% vs. 41%, P<0.001). Fully adjusted logistic regression results suggested more frequent missed/delayed dementia diagnoses among non-Hispanic Blacks (odds ratio=1.12; 95% confidence interval: 0.91–1.38) and Hispanics (odds ratio=1.58; 95% confidence interval: 1.20–2.07). Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics had a poorer cognitive function and more functional limitations than non-Hispanic Whites around the time of receiving a claims-based dementia diagnosis. The estimated mean diagnosis delay was 34.6 months for non-Hispanic Blacks and 43.8 months for Hispanics, compared with 31.2 months for non-Hispanic Whites.


Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics may experience a missed or delayed diagnosis of dementia more often and have longer diagnosis delays. When diagnosed, non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics may have more advanced dementia. Public health efforts should prioritize racial and ethnic underrepresented communities when promoting early diagnosis of dementia.

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