City life link to dementia

People escaping the city to make a tree change could be making a wise decision for their long-term health.

Green spaces and increasing the number of urban trees could lower dementia risk, according to University of Southern Queensland professor Khorshed Alam.

His comments follow the release of a study by PhD student Rezwanul Haque that showed that city people are more likely to develop dementia compared to their regional counterparts.

Using the latest available data from the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC), a nationally representative database collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) about the health of people in Australia, Haque’s study found that dementia rates across the population increased slightly in the three years between 2015 and 2018 and that there was an 11 per cent increase in dementia among people living in cities, while there was a 21 per cent decrease in dementia among people living in regional and remote areas during the same period. People living in the city were 1.12 times more likely to develop dementia than people living outside cities, the research found. The study has been published in science journal PLOS One.

Haque said his study highlighted the increasing health threat and that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare forecasts the number of Australians with dementia is expected to increase by more than double by 2058.

“Australia’s ageing population is expected to grow even older in the coming decades which will drive up dementia rates even more and put more pressure on families, health care systems and communities,” he said.

Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, undernutrition, depression and brain injuries have increased over time in Australia, which have all been considered as factors in the rise in dementia rates. However, Professor Alam, who was Haque’s supervisor and a co-author in the study, said environmental factors could be the reason why people in major cities are at greater risk of developing dementia.

“Earlier research identified chronic noise exposure, air pollution and a paucity of green space as probable risk factors for cognition reduction, which are more prevalent in metropolitan areas,” he said.

Professor Alam said policymakers should take note of the findings to come up with solutions to deal with the disease, such as providing healthier environments that encourage physical activity, social interaction and network building while simultaneously reducing air pollution.

It’s perhaps no surprise then that people are flocking to South East Queensland for a tree change. The Logan City Council area, in particular, boasts almost 1000 parks and more than 73 per cent of the city is identified as rural living, green living, recreation or open space

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