Socio-economic deprivation and the risk of age-related cognitive dysfunction among older people

CARDI Involvement
CARDI grant programme
  • Professor Adrian Moore, Health and Health Care Geography, University Ulster
  • Dr Leane Hoey, Human Nutrition, University Ulster


  • Northern Ireland
  • Republic of Ireland

Project Lead

Professor Helene McNulty, University of Ulster



Funding source

CARDI - Data Mining 2013





Last updated

13th January 2015
People who live in disadvantaged areas have a greater risk of developing cognitive dysfunction than people in better off areas, a study by Professor Helene McNulty and colleagues at the University of Ulster has found.

The findings of this study, funded by CARDI, are based on novel analysis of existing data collected for the TUDA Ageing north-south cohort study of over 5,000 older people in Ireland. The latest results show that – over and above factors like lower levels of education – living in a disadvantaged area significantly predicts cognitive dysfunction in ageing. This means that older people living in deprived areas of Ireland are more likely to suffer mental illnesses ranging from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.

The latest findings from the TUDA study were presented today (Friday 10 October 2014) at the annual Scientific Meeting of the Irish Gerontological Society in Galway. Compared with people in the least deprived areas, people living in the most deprived areas had:

·         three years less education;

·         a greater likelihood of anxiety and depression;

·         higher body mass index;

·         lower rates of physical activity;

·         higher rates of smoking.

Although cognitive dysfunction generally increased with age, older people living in the most deprived areas were more at risk of poor cognitive health compared with a person of the same age living in a less deprived area.

“The overall results of our study suggest that older people living in the most deprived areas in Ireland are at higher risk of poor mental health and developing cognitive impairment” said Professor McNulty. “We should target resources and strategies at this group to reduce the risk of developing cognitive impairment”.

Professor Davis Coakley, Co-Chair of CARDI added: “These are important findings and we must give priority across the island of Ireland to tackling the inequalities that this report highlights in mental health, ideally beginning at an early age.”

Research team

The research team consisted of Professor Helene McNulty, Dr Adrian McCann, Professor Adrian Moore and Dr Leane Hoey, all from the University of Ulster; Professor Anne Molloy, Trinity College Dublin and Dr Jan Rigby and the National Centre for GeoComputation team, NUI Maynooth.

Research brief

CARDI has prepared a research brief ‘Deprivation and Cognitive Dysfunction’ which summarises the main report and spells out some of the implications for policy and practice. Read it here.

For more information contact Nicola Donnelly at CARDI, tel (ROI): 086 2762397 or email:

More information

The full report is entitled ‘Socio-economic deprivation and risk of age-related cognitive dysfunction: results from the TUDA Ageing Cohort Study’.

Funding for the original Trinity, Ulster and Department of Agriculture Ageing Cohort study (TUDA) was provided by the Food for Health Research Initiative of the Irish Department of Agriculture and Health Research Board, with co-funding from the Department for Employment and Learning Northern Ireland under its Cross-Border Research and Development Programme: “Strengthening the all-Island Research Base”.