New Estimates of Americans with Alzheimer's Disease Show Racial & Ethnic Disparities

Study first to forecast Alzheimer’s estimates by race/ethnicity

The U.S. burden of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias will double by 2060, according to a new study published online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. This study is the first to forecast Alzheimer’s disease by race and ethnicity. Researchers predict that Hispanic Americans will have the largest projected increase due to population growth over the projection period, although because of the relative size of the population, non-Hispanic whites will still have the largest total number of Alzheimer’s cases.

The burden of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in 2014 was 5 million people, which is 1.6 percent of the U.S. population in 2014 – 319 million people. This burden is projected to grow to 13.9 million, nearly 3.3 percent of the population in 2060 – 417 million people.

This work was co-authored by researchers at the CDC, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and the National Center for Primary Care at Morehouse School of Medicine, including Anne Gaglioti, MD, FAAFP, associate professor of family medicine, director, Southeast Regional Clinicians Network, and associate director of research, National Center for Primary Care, Morehouse School of Medicine, and co-investigator, Integrating Special Populations, Georgia CTSA.

“Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) can help patients and families prepare for the future and obtain needed support. We encourage elders or those concerned about their memory, especially those in African American and Latino communities who are at highest risk for ADRD, to speak to their health care provider about getting screened for memory problems,” says Gaglioti.

She explains, “This work supports the mission of the Georgia CTSA’s Integrating Special Populations program because it highlights the future impact of ADRD in geriatric population in Georgia and highlights racial disparities that will be experienced by minority community members suffering from dementia and those caring for them. These findings underline the importance of reaching special populations like the geriatric population and engaging them in research.”

Racial disparities in future burden of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth most common cause of death for Americans ages 65 years and older. It is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and, eventually, a person’s ability to perform even the simplest tasks, such as bathing, feeding, and dressing. 

CDC researchers estimated the number of people with Alzheimer’s by age, sex, race and ethnicity in 2014 and 2060 based on population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau and percentages of Medicare Fee-for-Service beneficiaries ages 65 years and older with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Key findings

Among people ages 65 and older, African Americans have the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (13.8 percent), followed by Hispanics (12.2 percent), and non-Hispanic whites (10.3 percent), American Indian and Alaska Natives (9.1 percent), and Asian and Pacific Islanders (8.4 percent).

By 2060, the researchers estimate there will be 3.2 million Hispanics and 2.2 million African Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The increases are a result of fewer people dying from other chronic diseases and surviving into older adulthood when the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias increases.

Caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias need support

The report also addresses the need to provide support to caregivers of persons living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias because an early diagnosis can help caregivers plan for the life-changing experience of caring for a friend or family member with these conditions, which can also impact the caregiver’s health and well-being.

For more information on CDC’s activities related to Alzheimer’s disease and the Healthy Brain Initiative, visit Alzheimer's Disease and Healthy Aging and Healthy Brain Initiative.

View information on the National Plans to Address Alzheimer’s Disease

For more information on the Alzheimer’s Association’s resources for caregivers, professionals, and communities please visit the Alzheimer's association website. Georgia Clinical & Translational Science Alliance’s (Georgia CTSA) Integrating Special Population program efficiently translates research testing and discovery to special populations and further advance health equity. The Georgia CTSA is a statewide partnership between Emory, Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia Tech, and UGA and is one of over 50 in a national consortium striving to improve the way biomedical research is conducted across the country. The consortium, funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards, shares a common vision to translate laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, engage communities in clinical research efforts, and train the next generation of clinical investigators.