Genetic and environmental factors in late onset dementia: possible role for early parental death

Lawrence J Whalley, Roger T Staff, Alison D Murray, Ian J Deary, John M Starr

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14 Citations (Scopus)


We aimed to investigate three reports of a possible role of early parental death in late onset dementia. We tested a multivariate model of risk factors for late onset dementia that included established (female sex, a family history of dementia, APOE ε4) and putative influences (vascular risk factors, years of full-time education, parental ages at death, and childhood IQ) on dementia risk.

We examined contributions of early life and late life risk factors for dementia by using childhood social and family data and blood samples obtained at interview at age about 78 years. In 1997–1999, we recruited 281 subjects without dementia from a 1932 Scottish IQ survey of children born in 1921 and followed them up to 2010 (at age 88). Binary logistic regression and Bayesian structural equation modelling were used to model dementia risk.

Risk of dementia was associated with increasing age from 77 to 88 years, female sex, death of either parent before age 11 and APOE ε4 genotype. Family history of dementia, childhood IQ, years of education and vascular risk factors did not contribute to the model.

Our multivariate models of the possible causes of late onset dementia confirm previous associations of dementia with female sex and APOE ε4 genotype and supports earlier reports of a role for early parental death. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-81
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number1
Early online date22 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013

Bibliographical note

The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance provided by Wellcome Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK.

Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Apolipoprotein E4
  • Dementia
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parental Death
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Childhood Intelligence


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