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In a background of interest in staging models in psychiatry, we tested the validity of a simple staging model of cognitive impairment to predict incident dementia.
A large community sample of adults aged ≥55 years (N = 4803) was assessed in the baseline of a longitudinal, four-wave epidemiological enquiry. A two-phase assessment was implemented in each wave, and the instruments used included the Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE); the History and Aetiology Schedule and the Geriatric Mental State-AGECAT. For the standardised degree of cognitive impairment Perneczky et al's MMSE criteria were applied. A panel of psychiatrists diagnosed cases of dementia according to DSM-IV criteria, and cases and sub-cases of dementia were excluded for the follow-up waves. Competing risk regression models, adjusted by potential confounders, were used to test the hypothesised association between MMSE levels and dementia risk.
Out of the 4057 participants followed up, 607 (14.9%) were classified as ‘normal’ (no cognitive impairment), 2672 (65.8%) as ‘questionable’ cognitive impairment, 732 (18.0%) had ‘mild’ cognitive impairment, 38 (0.9%) had ‘moderate’ cognitive impairment and eight (0.2%) had ‘severe’ impairment.
Cognitive impairment was associated with risk of dementia, the risk increasing in parallel with the level of impairment (hazard ratio: 2.72, 4.78 and 8.38 in the ‘questionable’, ‘mild’ and ‘moderate’ level of cognitive impairment, respectively).
The documented gradient of increased risk of dementia associated with the severity level of cognitive impairment supports the validity of the simple staging model based on the MMSE assessment.
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