METHODS: We combined individual participant data for 16 cohorts from 15 countries (members of the COSMIC consortium) and used qualitative and quantitative (Item Response Theory/IRT) harmonization techniques to estimate SCD prevalence.
RESULTS: The sample comprised 39,387 cognitively unimpaired individuals above age 60. The prevalence of SCD across studies was around one quarter with both qualitative harmonization/QH (23.8%, 95%CI = 23.3-24.4%) and IRT (25.6%, 95%CI = 25.1-26.1%); however, prevalence estimates varied largely between studies (QH 6.1%, 95%CI = 5.1-7.0%, to 52.7%, 95%CI = 47.4-58.0%; IRT: 7.8%, 95%CI = 6.8-8.9%, to 52.7%, 95%CI = 47.4-58.0%). Across studies, SCD prevalence was higher in men than women, in lower levels of education, in Asian and Black African people compared to White people, in lower- and middle-income countries compared to high-income countries, and in studies conducted in later decades.
CONCLUSIONS: SCD is frequent in old age. Having a quarter of older individuals with SCD warrants further investigation of its significance, as a risk stage for AD and other dementias, and of ways to help individuals with SCD who seek medical advice. Moreover, a standardized instrument to measure SCD is needed to overcome the measurement variability currently dominant in the field.