Parity and Risk of Dementia in Women: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study

Rebecca M. DiBiase, Rebecca F. Gottesman, Sarah E. Tom, Keenan A. Walker, Thomas Mosley, Pamela L. Lutsey, Eliza C. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Reproductive factors, including parity, may contribute to dementia risk, due to hormonal, physiological, social, and demographic factors. We hypothesized that higher parity would be associated with increased dementia risk. Materials and Methods: We utilized data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) community-based cohort study. Participants were recruited in 1987–1989 and followed through 2017. Participants, all born between 1921 and 1945, were from four U.S. communities in Forsyth County, NC; Jackson, MS; Minneapolis, MN; and Washington County, MD. We included all female participants seen at ARIC visit three or five for whom parity and dementia outcomes were available (N = 7,921). The primary exposure was self-reported number of live births. Our primary outcome was dementia, diagnosed via neurocognitive assessments, informant interviews, and expert adjudication. We created Cox proportional hazards models to evaluate the association between parity and incident dementia, adjusting for demographic factors, education level, apolipoprotein E allele status, and vascular risk factors. We tested for interactions by race and birth cohort. Results: The adjusted hazard ratio was 0.82 (95% confidence intervals [CI] 0.69–0.99) for dementia in women with 0–1 births and 0.85 (95% CI 0.72–0.99) for women with 5+ births, compared to women with 2 births (reference group). This association was present in women born from 1924 to 1934, but not in women born in 1935 or later (p-interaction <0.001). Conclusion: We found an inverted U-shaped association of parity with dementia risk. This effect was modified by birth cohort, suggesting that the association may depend on demographic and sociocultural factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1040
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Women's Health
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.


  • cognition
  • dementia
  • parity
  • reproduction
  • women

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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