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Research says risk of developing dementia depends on how far north a person lives

nae sporran

Volunteer Host
Oct 29, 2014
Found in Sunday Herald, may lead to further investigation.

THE risk of developing dementia depends on how far north a person lives, new research has found.

Researchers say rates of the disease could be halved if related environmental factors - such as a lack of sunlight - which trigger the increased risk can be identified.

A study carried out by scientists at the University of Edinburgh focused on mapping the incidence of the disease in twins in Sweden.

It revealed those living in the north were two to three times more likely to develop dementia compared with those in the south, when factors such as age, gender and genes were taken into account.

Another study used data *gathered from a nationwide survey of *children born in 1921 to examine the risk of developing dementia.

This research found that while there was no change linked to where people lived as children, by the time men and women reached middle-age there was once again a higher risk for those who lived in areas further north, such as Grampian, compared to regions in the south, such as the Borders.

Tom Russ, clinical lecturer in old age psychiatry at Edinburgh University's Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre, said a lack of vitamin D could be one possible reason for the link.

"The north-south divide does make you think about latitude and it may be it is something to do with sunlight exposure and vitamin D - that is a possibility and it has certainly been linked to healthy brain function and dementia," he said, adding: "The next step is to pin down what these factors could be.

"Given that two to threefold variation, it is not going to be one factor - but if you could identify what these factors are and optimise them in the whole population, you could potentially halve dementia rates."

Russ said the Swedish study of twins allowed any genetic factors which might explain the north-south divide to be "taken out of the picture".

He added: "In the Scottish study, everybody was born in 1921, so they will have experienced *different things all at the same time - for example, they will all have been the same age when the NHS was introduced. By middle age - around 50 or 60 years old - there was a big *variation across Scotland [in dementia rates] and it was a *similar pattern: higher in the north and lower in the south."

Lindsay Kinnaird, research manager at Alzheimer Scotland, said: "We're delighted that Scotland is leading the way in helping us to understand what causes this illness.

"If we are able to identify *environmental risk factors, then we have the opportunity to make adaptations to lifestyle that can minimise their impact."


Registered User
Sep 27, 2006
My husband and I lived in Sunny Spain for 20 years, ate plenty of oily fish etc. but he developed Lewy Body Disease at the age of 59. I don't know if our experience is the exception which proves the rule or whether all this research often leads to deductions which are misleading and indeed obscure the real reasons for the disease developing



Registered User
Apr 24, 2013
Snap TinaT so did we. My Spanish neighbour had MIL with dementia and we had a care home a mile or so down the road full of people with dementia. This particular piece of research sounds dodgy to me but who knows?


Registered User
Aug 24, 2013
The headline says "Research says risk of developing dementia depends on how far north a person lives"
The person who did the research actually said "The north-south divide does make you think about latitude"
Coincidence does not prove causality, Italy has a problem with organised crime, Italians eat a lot of pasta...therefore pasta causes organised crime, obvious when you think about it.
I think more people have vitamin D deficiency because they constantly told to keep out of the sun or are prescribed statins without vitamin D supplements.


Registered User
Sep 27, 2006
My doctor hasn't mentioned the need for vitamin D in all the years I've taken statins. Should I ask about this risk?

I like the logic the last poster used - good one!



Registered User
May 21, 2014
A nurse told me once to take Vitamin D3 as I had a deficiency and added that most people in this country have that. I've given it to OH too until I read it's not good for people with kidney stones so I stopped again. I guess it's best to talk to the GP before taking supplements.


Registered User
Feb 6, 2012
What about red hair?

People with red hair are super convertors of vitamin D. Any research on them and dementia.

Given that I have every risk factor going then this would be a teeny bit of good news.


Registered User
Apr 24, 2013
What is this thing called dementia?

Well here's the thing. John and I have been together for more than 50 years. We have the same diet, we had similar schooling, similar backgrounds in Glasgow, we have had the same exposure to sunshine living in New Zealand and Spain for long periods of our lives, we exercised together and both had an interest in foreign languages, both like to read. We have had a happy fulfilling life together.

So why has he got Alzheimers and I haven't? Well there is no history in my family other than a great aunt of my father who I believe from her medical notes had post natal depression unrecognised in 19 th century Scotland. John's father and grandfather like him had glaucoma and dementia and three brothers had some form of dementia!

I read every bit of new info on this disease and all the crosswords and faddy diets under the sun will not stop you getting this if it is inherited. What a healthy lifestyle might do is delay the worst of the effects or allow you to continue longer with a reasonable life. John may not know what day it is but he can still make me laugh occasionally by cracking a joke.


Account Closed
Apr 12, 2014
I know several people who worked in London and moved back up North to join the wider family on retirement or in some cases to join offspring.
I am just wondering if they would be better off having all their money tied up I a house and not be able to afford to do anything or is it better to go back up north and free some of their money up to enjoy life?.



Registered User
Jan 28, 2015
Forgive my cynicism, but this sort of story doesn't help much IMO.

This is the same paper who published a story last year about dementia depending on height:

Men under 5ft 6in were 50 per cent more likely to suffer death from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia than those taller than 5ft 10in, a team led by Edinburgh University have revealed. Women were less at risk, but those shorter than 5ft 1in were still 35 per cent more likely to have their lives ended by the disease than those taller than 5ft 5in.
So, just looking at these two factors, presumably there are a lot of short people in Aberdeen with dementia and very few tall people in Hastings with it?

Isn't there another statistic which says women are more likely to develop dementia than men? That seems to contradict the above claims.

There are so many factors influencing everyone's health and so many studies going on around the world which throw up all sorts of statistics. In the end, unless there is a very clear correlation between cause and effect, I don't pay claims like this much attention.