Dementia rates falling by 13% per decade over last 30 years

04 August 2020

A global team of researchers led by Prof Albert Hofman, from the Harvard School of Public Health, analysed data from seven population-based studies in the United States and Europe. They found the incidence of dementia fell 13% per decade over last 30 years, between 1988 and 2015.

Early results from this research had previously been presented at Alzheimer’s Research UK’s 2019 Research Conference in Harrogate.

What did our expert say?

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK said
“Looking over three decades, the incidence rate of dementia in Europe and North America seems to be declining.

“This is more pronounced in men than women and is likely to be driven by changes in lifestyle. We know that recent decades have seen a radical decline in smoking rates for men. While many people may have been persuaded to stop smoking due to an increased risk of cancer or heart disease, it is also a key risk factor for dementia. With other dementia risk factors such as obesity and diabetes on the rise, this apparent decline in dementia rates may not continue for long.

“In future, prevention strategies that combine drug treatments and lifestyle changes may be the most effective strategy to limit the impact of dementia. While new drugs take many years to develop, lifestyle changes are available to us all.

“A recent poll conducted by Alzheimer’s Research UK found just a third of people think it’s possible to reduce their risk of developing dementia but there is robust evidence that what’s good for the heart is also good for the brain.

“As well as maintaining a healthy blood pressure, the best current evidence suggests that not smoking, only drinking within the recommended limits, staying mentally and physically active, eating a balanced diet, and keeping cholesterol levels in check can all help to keep our brains healthy as we age.”

Read the science?

You can read the research publication here.

Behind the Headlines: A drop in UK dementia incidence rates

Read this blog about changes in the numbers of people developing dementia over the last two decades.