Transgender community susceptible to Alzheimer’s

Transgender and non-binary older adults may be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, research suggests.

Transgender and non-binary older adults may be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, research suggests.

The Australian research – conducted by UNSW Sydney and the first global study to investigate disparities in dementia risk according to sex and gender identity – compared the prevalence of modifiable risk factors in transgender or gender-diverse participants compared to cisgender adults.

Dr Brooke Brady

“It allowed us for the first time to look into how dementia risk in both mid-life and later-life might be different in sex and gender,” lead researcher Dr Brooke Brady told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Recently published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia – the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association – the research uncovers risk factors that are disproportionately higher in transgender men and women and non-binary individuals.

“When we looked at gender identity – which we know is based on cognitive, psychological and social ideas of your gender – we found a really complex pattern of risk, particularly in later-life Alzheimer’s disease risk where we found that transgender men, transgender women and non-binary adults are at higher risk of late-life Alzheimer’s disease than cisgender men and women,” said Dr Brady.

There are, she added, lots of factors that feed into that higher late-life risk. “Some of those factors include transphobia, lifetime social discrimination and stress, income inequality, health inequalities.”

Dr Brady said she was unsurprised by her team’s findings. “I wasn’t surprised. I’m disappointed, always, to see this play out in data. I think as a community we can do more to learn about inequalities and start to address those to better support the needs of people who are gender diverse.”

The findings are extremely important for the transgender community, said Dr Brady. “They’re showing us that there is a need – there is a really dire need – for more targeted dementia-risk prevention campaigns that meet their needs in a more specific way.”

Dr Brady told AAA there needs to be more research into dementia risk and health inequalities for gender diverse people.

“Unfortunately, until we get more global data, there are so many unanswered questions,” she said. “There are so many dementia-risk factors that we could just not include in this study that I suspect – and my colleagues suspect and community advocates suspect – will be having a strong impact on dementia risk.”

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Tags: dementia, Dr Brooke Brady, gender diverse, transgender, UNSW sydney,

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