$3.3 Million to Understand Generational Health Challenges that Influence Dementia Prevalence

HEIDI DOUGLASS | h.douglass@unsw.edu.au

Co-Director of Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) at UNSW Medicine & Health, Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty AO, has been awarded $3.3 million to understand how generational health challenges influence the prevalence of dementia.

The highly competitive National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant will allow his expert team of researchers to ascertain what changes have occurred in Sydney’s next generation of 70 to 90-year-olds in terms of physical, psychological, social and brain health.

People aged 70 and over comprise nearly 12% of the Australian population, and this proportion will be nearly 20% by mid-century.

Within a few decades, it is expected that people over the age of 85 will increase from approximately 500,000 to 1.5 million people.

Age-related conditions and disabilities are major drivers of care needs and cost associated with ageing, and the top 3 diseases causing burden in people over the age of 70 are coronary heart disease, dementia and stroke.

"The time to prioritise dementia prevention is now but in order to maximise return on investment we need to understand changes at a population level in people’s exposure to risk factors, and their uptake of evidence-based strategies for healthy living,” says Professor Brodaty.

“Incremental change is not enough. This 5-year study will give us a clear guide of generational changes in population physical, psychological, social and cognitive health, as well as changes in risk factors for and protective factors against poor health.”

Ultimately, we want to be able to help inform planning for services and health policy – and better target preventative strategies against Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Professor Henry Brodaty

The study will address questions of health challenges by repeating one of Australia’s largest population-based longitudinal studies of ageing – CHeBA’s Sydney Memory and Ageing Study - one generation later. The highly successful study, which has a strong track record with over 180 peer-reviewed published papers, recruited 1037 dementia-free individuals aged 70-90 and followed them for 14 years.

It has significantly influenced policy and practice in Australia.

“We now intend to extend the methodology of the original Sydney Memory and Ageing Study to include innovative plasma biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease and an evaluation of novel risk factors for dementia,” says Brodaty.

Professor Brodaty will lead an exceptional research team of experts in epidemiology, cohort studies, big data, physical health, psychological health, social health, cognitive ageing, health economics, diabetes and proteomics and metabolomics, genetics, neuroimaging, neuropsychology and cognitive testing.

Research is the key to the health gains the world has made.

Professor Henry Brodaty

“Deaths from heart disease have steadily decreased over the last 50 years and life span increased by over 25 years in the last century.

“This study will ultimately enable insight into how to live longer without cognitive decline by targeting dementia prevention strategies,” says Brodaty.


Chief Investigators: 

  • Professor Henry Brodaty AO, CHeBA, UNSW Sydney 
  • Professor Perminder Sachdev AM, CHeBA, UNSW Sydney
  • Professor Colin Masters AO, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, University of Sydney
  • Professor Annette Dobson, University of Queensland
  • Professor Aletta Schutte, UNSW Sydney
  • Professor Henry Cutler, Macquarie University
  • Professor Carol Brayne, University of Cambridge
  • Dr Nicole Kochan, CHeBA, UNSW Sydney
  • Dr Katya Numbers, CHeBA, UNSW Sydney

Communications Contact

Communications contact: Heidi Douglass, Communications and Projects OffierHeidi Douglass
Team Lead – Innovations & Communications
T 0435 579 202
E h.douglass@unsw.edu.au