Objective: The prevalence of cognitive impairment and population normative values for cognitive function were assessed, for the first time, in 2,630 subjects representative of the non-demented community dweller population ≧65 years in Spain, a southern European country with a sizable proportion of illiterate senior citizens. Methods: Data were collected cross-sectionally by interview, using a structured questionnaire. Cognitive function was assessed using the Mini-Examen Cognoscitivo (MEC; Spanish-validated version of the Mini-Mental State Examination). Results: A total of 22.4% of the subjects presented with cognitive impairment (MEC ≤22). The proportion of subjects with cognitive impairment was double in women versus men, rose to 46.2% in subjects aged ≧85 years and to 34.8% in subjects with no formal education, and was higher among those who had limitations in instrumental activities of daily living (p < 0.001). In subjects with no formal education, 25% registered mean MEC scores compatible with probable cognitive impairment. Conclusions: One of every 5 Spanish senior citizens presents with cognitive impairment, a proportion that increased among women, subjects with no formal education and with higher age.

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