International Psychogeriatrics

Review Article

Prevalence of dementia in Latin America: a collaborative study of population-based cohorts

Ricardo Nitrinia1, Cássio M. C. Bottinoa2, Cecilia Albalaa3, Nilton Santos Custodio Capuñaya4, Carlos Ketzoiana5, Juan J. Llibre Rodrigueza6, Gladys E. Maestrea7, Ana Teresa A. Ramos-Cerqueiraa8 and Paulo Caramellia9 c1

a1 Department of Neurology, University of São Paulo School of Medicine, São Paulo, Brazil

a2 Institute of Psychiatry, University of São Paulo School of Medicine, São Paulo, Brazil

a3 INTA, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile

a4 Clinica Internacional, Lima, Peru

a5 Institute of Neurology, School of Medicine, University of the Republic, Montevideo, Uruguay

a6 Facultad de Medicina Finlay Albarrán, Universidad Medica de La Habana, Cuba

a7 Neurosciences Laboratory, Institute for Biological Research, and Cardiovascular Institute, University of Zulia, Maracaibo Venezuela, and Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, Columbia University, New York, U.S.A.

a8 Department of Neurology, Psychology and Psychiatry, Botucatu Medical School, São Paulo State University (UNESP), Brazil

a9 Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil


Background: Dementia is becoming a major public health problem in Latin America (LA), yet epidemiological information on dementia remains scarce in this region. This study analyzes data from epidemiological studies on the prevalence of dementia in LA and compares the prevalence of dementia and its causes across countries in LA and attempts to clarify differences from those of developed regions of the world.

Methods: A database search for population studies on rates of dementia in LA was performed. Abstracts were also included in the search. Authors of the publications were invited to participate in this collaborative study by sharing missing or more recent data analysis with the group.

Results: Eight studies from six countries were included. The global prevalence of dementia in the elderly (≥65 years) was 7.1% (95% CI: 6.8–7.4), mirroring the rates of developed countries. However, prevalence in relatively young subjects (65–69 years) was higher in LA studies The rate of illiteracy among the elderly was 9.3% and the prevalence of dementia in illiterates was two times higher than in literates. Alzheimer's disease was the most common cause of dementia.

Conclusions: Compared with studies from developed countries, the global prevalence of dementia in LA proved similar, although a higher prevalence of dementia in relatively young subjects was evidenced, which may be related to the association between low educational level and lower cognitive reserve, causing earlier emergence of clinical signs of dementia in the LA elderly population.

(Received September 02 2008)

(Revised October 03 2008)

(Revised March 05 2009)

(Accepted March 05 2009)

(Online publication June 09 2009)


c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: Paulo Caramelli, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurology, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Av Prof. Alfredo Balena 190 – Room 246, 30.130-100, Belo Horizonte (MG) – Brazil. Phone: +55 31 3409-9746; Fax: +55 31 3409-9746. Email: