Self-Reported Cognitive Impairment Is Rising

Recent CDC data reveal an overall increase in self-reporting cognitive impairment within the U.S.


More people are reporting cognitive impairment, according to CDC researchers. Overall, the rate of self-reported cognitive impairment rose from 5.7% in 1997 to 6.7% in 2015. Among non-Hispanic white respondents, the rate went from 5.2% to 6.1%. The researchers found no significant trends in cognitive impairment among non-Hispanic black, Native American, Hispanic, or Asian respondents.

Respondents to the National Health Survey were asked whether any family member was “limited in any way because of difficulty remembering or because of experiencing periods of confusion.” The rate of cognitive impairment increased with age in all 5 racial/ethnic groups. The rate was lowest among non-Hispanic white respondents until the 1943-1947 birth cohort. The data are “interesting,” the researchers say, because other recent studies that used data from cognitive tests and clinical assessments found a declining trend in dementia in the U.S. Direct comparisons among studies is inappropriate, however, they note, because of different study designs. Their own findings “might suggest that awareness of cognitive impairment has improved in the United States, especially in recent years,” in part due to heightened public attention to Alzheimer disease.

More public education may be needed to promote awareness, the researchers say, especially among the minority groups. Minorities had lower rates of self-reporting, perhaps because of different cultural beliefs about disease and aging, or because they are less likely to seek treatment for depression, which can contribute to cognitive decline.

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