Pandemic increases deaths from dementia in blacks, while rate falls among whites

Deaths of black and brown people caused by dementia increased by approximately 15 percentage points in Brazil in 2019 , points out a new study. For whites, however, the mortality rate decreased (-1.4) in the comparison between 2019, the pre-pandemic year, and the following period, dominated by the health crisis caused by the coronavirus.

As possible explanations for this discrepancy, the researchers point to risk factors to which the black population is more susceptible and which worsened with Covid-15.

Conducted by scientists from UFPel (Federal University of Pelotas) and UFRGS (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul), with the collaboration of the University of Queensland, Australia , the survey compared data available by the SUS (Single Health System) on dementia across the country between the years 2019 and 2019.

The research focused on three aspects of the occurrence of dementia in Brazilian territory in the context of Covid-19: hospitalizations for the disease, average costs for its treatment and the mortality rate. From then on, analyzes were drawn up for the black, brown and white populations.

Regarding hospitalization and treatment costs, it was found that there was a decrease in the last year for all Brazilians. However, mortality from dementia increased only in black people and browns.

Some studies, both before and during the pandemic, had already warned that the black population, not only in Brazil , but especially in the United States, it had a higher risk for dementia cases and deaths when compared to other ethnic groups, says Natan Feter, Ph.D. in physical education from UFPel and one of the authors of the study.

For Feter, an accumulation of factors can explain the increase in this mortality rate in black people during the pandemic. One of the reasons would be the fact that this portion of the population was economically more affected during the dissemination of the coronavirus. This tends to increase stress and other mental health problems, considered important risk factors for dementia.

Another hypothesis to explain this increase in deaths is the difficulty faced by the population Black women have access to health systems, especially with the increase in cases of Covid-19. People, even in need of an appointment, stopped seeking the service during the pandemic, he says.

Feter also points out that previous studies have already shown that people usually seek emergency services primarily in cases of dementia, which also shows the low adherence to adequate and early treatment of the disease.

This makes the diagnosis of dementia take longer to be carried out. This delay, as a consequence, hinders the initiation of treatment and increases the chances of death.

Feter also points out that other risk factors for dementia that are not necessarily related to the pandemic, such as diabetes and hypertension, there was already a higher prevalence in the black population between.

When we have from 19% to 50% of dementia cases attributable to modifiable risk factors, and we know that the prevalence of these risk factors is higher in the black population, it is not so surprising that these people are dying more from this disease, he points out.

And, as they are comorbidities that also increase the chances of dying with Covid-19, “then the black population with dementia has a double burden of risk factors , says the researcher.

The study also observed regional particularities. It was found, for example, that in the southern region there was an increase in hospitalizations and average costs of treating the disease and a reduction in the mortality rate. In the Northeast, hospitalization increased, while costs and mortality decreased.

Even with these variations, Fater states that the disparity [racial] is quite marked” in the general context of the Brazil.

To deal with this scenario, the researcher points out the importance of implementing public policies to reduce the prevalence of these risk factors in the black population and, consequently, reduce mortality from dementia .

An example would be the creation of a national plan to combat dementia, which, in Latin America, is only a reality in Chile.2020

Brazil does not have a national plan to combat dementia because it is stagnant in the Federal Senate, without a planned continuity. So, in a conversation to structure this plan, it would be necessary to include how to reduce the ethnic-racial disparity, he says.

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