Indigenous Australians living in urban areas could be just as vulnerable to high rates of dementia as those living in remote areas, according to new research from the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

The work will be discussed next Tuesday at the National Dementia Research Forum.

Existing studies show that remote Indigenous people are 26 times more likely to develop dementia at a very young age (between 45 and 59 years) than the rest of the Australian population.

The Kimberley Indigenous Cognitive Assessment (KICA) study looked at Aboriginal people, in a population aged 45 years and over in the Kimberley region of the Northern Territory, who developed dementia. They had very high dementia prevalence - around 13 percent, compared to around 2.6 percent amongst non-Indigenous people at 45 and over.

Dementia figures for older Indigenous people in remote areas (those who are 65 and above) were four times higher than the non-Indigenous rate.

"If this rate applies to the general Indigenous population - and we think it might - there is likely to be a disproportionate number of Indigenous people with dementia in coming years," said Associate Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver, Director of the Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit at UNSW.

The risk factors for cognitive impairment and dementia include educational disadvantage; unemployment, underemployment and low status jobs; high rates of drug and alcohol use; brain trauma and increased rates of diabetes, hypertension, renovascular and metabolic disease.

"We need a three-tier process," said Professor Jackson Pulver, a Koori woman. "We need to prevent cognitive decline by investing in early childhood education and family support; we need to improve literacy and provide tertiary education programs and employment opportunities."

The research will be presented at the National Dementia Research Forum, which is being held on Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th September. The event is hosted by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres (DCRC). The Primary DCRC is based at UNSW.

For more information, go to the website.

Media contact: Professor Jackson Pulver, 0404 859 989 or Susi Hamilton 0422 934 024