To obtain age- and gender-specific estimates of the prevalence of dementia in Europe and to study differences in prevalence across countries, we pooled and re-analysed original data of prevalence studies of dementia carried out in some European countries between 1980 and 1990. The study followed these steps: census of existing datasets, collection of data in a standardized format, selection of datasets suitable for comparison, comparison of age and gender patterns. From the 23 datasets of European surveys considered, 12 were selected for comparison. Only population-based studies in which dementia was defined by DSM-III or equivalent criteria and in which all subjects were examined personally were included. Studies in which institutionalized subjects were not investigated were excluded. Age- and gender-specific prevalences were compared within and across studies and overall prevalences were computed. Although prevalence estimates differed across studies, the general age- and gender-distribution was similar for all studies. The overall European prevalences for the five-year age groups from 60 to 94 years, were 1.0, 1.4, 4.1, 5.7, 13.0, 21.6 and 32.2%, respectively. In subjects under 75 years the prevalence of dementia was slightly higher in men than in women; in those aged 75 years or over the prevalence was higher in women. The prevalence figures nearly doubled with every five years of increase in age.
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