Why investing in dementia research is good for our health and wealth

economic modelling

By Madeleine Walpert | Tuesday 11 July 2023

When thinking about recent progress in dementia research, your mind probably takes you to the benefit and hope it brings to people affected by the condition – people like Jordan and Megan. 

But the benefits to people living with long-term conditions aren’t the only positives that spring from medical research. It also boosts economic growth – and that’s as true of dementia research as it is in any other field. Our new report, The Economic Value of Dementia Research, published today, shows how investment in dementia research can directly boost the country’s economy. 

For this analysis, we commissioned the Office of Health Economics (an independent research organisation) to explore the economic returns from dementia research in the UK between 2019 and 2020, and how this is projected to change by 2040. Estimating economic return from any scientific research is notoriously complicated. But we’re confident that our new analysis provides the most accurate picture to date of the boost that publicly and commercially funded dementia research gives the UK economy, and demonstrates its remarkable potential for future growth.  

 

Every £1 invested in dementia research generates £2.59 in economic benefits 

Dementia research contributes to our economy by supporting jobs. Across 2019 and 2020, around £204 million was invested in dementia research by government, charities and commercial organisations like pharmaceutical companies. This resulted in £529 million of economic benefits, including the equivalent of 7,353 full-time jobs. This means every £1 invested in dementia research generated an extra £2.59 each year. 

And this figure is set to rise. By assuming a 3% annual increase in investment, and accounting for inflation forecasts, our analysis suggests that, by 2040, the UK economy could see as much as £3.15 returned for every £1 invested in dementia research.  

 

Investing in dementia research can increase local living standards 

Some of the jobs generated include very highly skilled roles – the analysis found that full-time salaries in dementia research are on average 41% higher than the average salary across all jobs in a region.  

There is, however, a catch. At the moment, research investment is unevenly distributed across the UK, with 54% of investment concentrated in London and the Southeast. We want to see dementia research embedded equally across the nation, with our new analysis demonstrating its significant impact on salaries at a regional level, and therefore increasing local living standards and helping to tackle inequalities. 

 

But the picture could be rosier… 

During the election campaign in 2019, the Conservative party pledged to double funding for dementia research. Despite the changing faces at Downing Street since then, we’ve heard re-commitments to this, even in the last year.   

Our analysis now highlights the significant benefits of realising this promise. If the government increased dementia research funding to £160m by 2024, as they’ve said they will, each £1 invested would generate almost four times that (£3.96) in economic impact.  

 

Why is this analysis important? 

These findings are incredibly useful as they help us demonstrate to the government that when they invest in dementia research, the country wins twice over – new discoveries open up new experimental treatments for people with dementia, while also bolstering the nation’s economy. So it’s clear that we need the UK government to honour its promise to keep investing in dementia research. And that’s even more important as we approach a general election – we need to make sure politicians from all parties understand that their investment is crucial. 

Breakthroughs in dementia research over the past few years have culminated in a new generation of treatments emerging. This is a medical field previously seen as a costly, hopeless cause by investors – including governments – but our analysis demonstrates its remarkable growth potential. Our Head of Policy, David Thomas, knows the UK is well placed to capitalise on this potential, owing to its “winning combination of talented scientists, working in partnership with world leading initiatives, like the Dame Barbara Windsor Dementia Mission, and universities.” 

Over the next few months, we’ll be making the case that government and political parties must set out long-term strategic and sustainable plans for dementia research funding, spanning experimental discovery science all the way through to clinical research. If you’d like to help us campaign for long-term investment in dementia research, sign up to be a campaigner today. 

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About the author

Madeleine Walpert

Policy Advisor