Demographic Studies

Prof. Dr. Gabriele Doblhammer

Areas of investigation/research focus

As more and more people reach high ages, neurodegenerative diseases, especially dementia, become an important issue of our society.

Valid data sources for the estimation of the temporal and spatial extent as well as of the costs of neurodegenerative disease hardly exist. However, a reliable data base of the present number of people with neurodegenerative diseases is indispensable for projections of the future number of people with such diseases and the associated medical costs and care need. Therefore, we aim to establish a national database (“NeuroDiseaseMonitor”) which should be preferably based on data from the German public health insurance funds. The database is the first that provide comprehensive, accurate and long-term data on the characteristics of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases to researchers, economic actors and other interested institutions.

Furthermore, based on various data sources (such as health claims data of the AOK, DaTraV data of the DIMDI, survey data (SHARE), Berlin Aging Study II (BASE II)) we are primarily focused on three research areas:

  • Prevalence, incidence, spatial patterns, and trends in dementia and Parkinson
  • Risk factors of dementia
  • Dementia, care, and mortality.

The use of demographic and epidemiological methods, as well as the interdisciplinary teamwork within the DZNE and with national and international research institutions allow us to investigate causes, determinants, and trends of neurodegenerative diseases.

Claims data of the largest German health insurance (Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse – AOK) allow us to explore questions on health and mortality associated with neurodegenerative diseases. We use the data for an estimation of administrative dementia prevalence and incidence, for identifying demographic and disease-related risk factors of neurodegenerative diseases, to analyze trends as well as the transition into care need and into institution after having received the diagnosis “dementia”, or to conduct pharmacoepidemiologic studies.

The German Institute of Medical Documentation and Information (DIMDI) recently published aggregated health care data from the statutory health insurance funds (DaTraV), including information on outpatient and inpatient diagnoses as well as on prescribed and deducted pharmaceutical products for the total population with statutory health insurance in Germany (about 70 million people). The data can be used for analyses of the health care situation as well as the current and future occurrence of neurodegenerative diseases.

Data of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), particularly information on respondents’ life histories from third wave called SHARELIFE, allows to explore the effect of early-, mid- and late-life conditions on cognition at age 50+. For example, we investigated whether individual conditions during childhood mediate or moderate the long-term cognitive effects of poor economic environments at birth.

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