There are many factors that contribute to increased rates of dementia including heart disease, substance abuse, head injury and high cholesterol - all factors that occur at higher rates in indigenous Australians.
But the study by Neuroscience Research Australia now links childhood trauma with a higher risk of developing dementia later in life.
The study involved 336 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australians aged between 60 and 92, who completed a life course survey of health, well being, cognition and social history including a childhood trauma questionnaire.
Many participants in the study reported experiencing adverse childhood incidents such as separation from family, poor childhood health, and frequent relocation.
Participants who experienced adverse childhood incidents were at higher risk of developing dementia later in life.
The study adds to a growing area of research linking childhood trauma to increased risk of dementia later in life.
Head researcher Dr Kylie Radford the research shows childhood trauma needs to be acknowledged as a risk factor for dementia.
“The ongoing effects of childhood stress need to be recognised as people grow older, particularly in terms of dementia prevention and care, as well as in populations with greater exposure to childhood adversity, such as Aboriginal Australians," Dr Radford said.
“Exposure to stress and adversity can have long lasting effects on people and we need to learn more about the way trauma and stress impact brain health throughout our lifespan, for Aboriginal Australian communities and for all communities globally.”
Dementia is one of Australia's top three leading causes of death, but Indigenous people's risk of dementia is three-times the rate of non-Indigenous people according to a recent study.