Worldwide dementia cases to triple by 2050

Hilary-6

By Ed Pinches | Tuesday 27 July 2021

Alzheimer’s Research UK calls government to commit to pledge to fund dementia research

  • 152 million living with dementia by 2050
  • Population growth and aging thought to be driving factors
  • Increase highest in Africa and the Middle East
  • 152 million people to have dementia by 2050
  • Cases of new young onset dementia now over 10 per 100,000 people

Today (Tuesday 27 July) research presented at the 2021 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Colorado shows global dementia cases are set to triple, with 152 million living with dementia by 2050. Other research presented at the conference estimates that 350,000 people under the age of 65 develop dementia every year.

Population growth and aging fuels cases

Researchers at the University of Washington estimated global dementia prevalence from 1990 to 2019. They then used information about trends in risk factors for dementia to forecast the number of dementia cases by 2050.

The researchers suggest that the number of people living with dementia is set to increase from an estimated 57 million in 2019 to 152 million by 2050.

The researchers found the highest increases in dementia cases will likely come from sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle east. This growth is driven largely by population growth and an ageing population.

Using information available on risk factors, they found that globally there would be an increase of 6.8 million dementia cases between 2019 and 2050 specifically due to poorer heart health factors, whereas improved education would account for a reduction of 6.2 million.

350,000 people living with young-onset dementia

In another study, also presented at AAIC, researchers from the Netherlands looked at the number of new cases of young-onset dementia. Young-onset dementia is a classification applied to cases where people develop dementia symptoms under the age of 65.

The researchers estimated that every year there are 11 new cases of young-onset dementia per 100,000 people. They found there was no big difference between the number of men and women developing young-onset dementia.

Dementia is caused by a number of different diseases. The researchers found that young-onset Alzheimer’s disease accounted for the highest number of new cases, followed by vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia.

What our expert said:

Speaking about the impact of the findings, Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Dementia is our greatest long-term medical challenge. These striking figures lay bare the shocking scale of dementia on a global scale. To have 57 million people already living with this devastating condition is 57 million too many, but with that number set to almost triple we need to see concerted global action now, to transform the prospects for the next generation.

“Dementia doesn’t just affect individuals, it can devastate whole families and networks of friends and loved ones. The heart-breaking personal costs go hand-in-hand with huge economic and societal impacts – and all of these will shoot up alongside the number of people affected.

“While age is the biggest risk factor for developing dementia and is largely driving the increase in cases, the condition isn’t an inevitable part of getting older. While we can’t change our age, making positive lifestyle changes can help tip the scales in our favour. There is robust evidence that what’s good for the heart is also good for the brain. Not smoking, only drinking within the recommended limits, staying mentally and physically active, eating a balanced diet, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check can all help to keep our brains healthy as we age.

“New drugs to treat the diseases that cause dementia are in sight, but they won’t be a panacea. Reducing the number of dementia cases is a key focus for Alzheimer’s Research UK, and global leaders need to come together to make concerted and coordinated efforts to minimise the number of rising cases.

“We are currently at a tipping point for dementia research and substantial and stable funding will make all the difference in bringing about new life-changing treatments for the people who desperately need them. The UK is a global hub for dementia research, but to safeguard progress and improve outcomes around the world, it’s now vital that our government meets the urgent need for investment across every stage of the process.”

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Ed Pinches