Research presented at the 2021 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Colorado reveals global dementia cases may triple by 2050, affecting 152 million lives. Researchers at the University of Washington estimated global dementia prevalence from 1990 to 2019, then used the information about trends in risk factors for dementia to forecast the number of dementia cases by 2050.
The scientists 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. They estimate the highest increases to come from sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East. The growth is largely driven by population growth and aging population. Analysing information on risk factors revealed that there would be an increase of 6.8 million dementia cases globally between 2019 and 2050 – specifically due to poorer heart health factors. Improved education would account for a reduction of 6.2 million.
Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, Hilary Evans said, “Dementia is our greatest long-term medical challenge. These string 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.”
She added, “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.”
Researchers estimate 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.