Global dementia cases will nearly triple to reach more than 152 million by 2050, driven by an ageing population, a new study predicts.
University of Washington researchers have based their estimation on trends in dementia risk factors, such as smoking and high body mass index (BMI).
They claim dementia cases will increase from an estimated 57.4 million globally in 2019 to an estimated 152.8 million cases in 2050.
The highest increase in dementia prevalence is projected to be in eastern sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East, they add.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there around 50 million people with dementia globally, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.
Rising dementia cases are due to an ageing population and lifestyle factors including smoking, high mass index and high blood sugar
AN AGEING POPULATION
The US National Institute on Ageing estimates people over the age of 65 will make up 16 per cent of the world’s population by 2050 – up from 8 per cent in 2010.
And according to WHO, between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will nearly double from 12 to 22 per cent.
By 2020, people aged 60 years and older will outnumber children younger than 5 years, WHO says.
There are multiple diseases that cause dementia, which is classified as the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities.
According to the new study, positive trends in access to education are expected to decrease dementia prevalence worldwide by 6.2 million cases by 2050.
But this figure is more than cancelled out by anticipated trends in smoking, high BMI and high blood sugar, which combined are predicted to increase dementia prevalence by 6.8 million cases by 2050.
The research was led by Emma Nichols, an expert with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
‘These estimates will allow policymakers and decision makers to better understand the expected increases in the number of individuals with dementia as well as the drivers of these increases in a given geographical setting,’ she said.
‘The large anticipated increase in the number of individuals with dementia emphasises the vital need for research focused on the discovery of disease-modifying treatments and effective low-cost interventions for the prevention or delay of dementia onset.’
The new forecast matches those from the WHO, which has already put the number of global dementia cases at 152 million by 2050.
RISK FACTORS USED TO PREDICT DEMENTIA
- Smoking status and lifetime exposure
- Alcohol consumption
- Physical activity
- Sense of belonging
- Immigration status
- Socioeconomic status of the neighbourhood
- Activities where assistance is needed
- Marital status
- Number of languages spoken
- Health conditions
‘Our forecasts were developed independently from those released by the WHO in 2017, and additionally incorporated information on expected trends in risk factors,’ Nichols told MailOnline.
‘Therefore, the two sets of results can be seen as convergent evidence highlighting the importance of dementia as a public health issue moving into the future.’
Nichols and colleagues used data from 1999 to 2019 from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, a comprehensive set of estimates of health trends worldwide.
Their study aimed to improve on prior forecasts by incorporating information on trends in dementia risk factors.
The team used the same data set to estimate that Alzheimer’s mortality rates increased by 38 per cent between 1990 and 2019.
The study is being presented at this week’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC), which is being held in Denver and live-streamed online.
‘Improvements in lifestyle in adults in developed countries and other places –including increasing access to education and greater attention to heart health issues – have reduced incidence in recent years,’ said Maria C. Carrillo, Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer.
‘But total numbers with dementia are still going up because of the ageing of the population.
There are different diseases that can cause dementia. Many are associated with an abnormal build-up of proteins in the brain. This build-up causes nerve cells to function less well and ultimately die (stock image)
RURAL AREAS SUFFER ALZHEIMER’S BURDEN
Rural areas of the US suffer more deaths than urban areas from Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, a study says.
The discrepancy is likely the result of health disparities experienced by rural residents compared to their urban counterparts.
This includes lower socio-economic status, higher levels of chronic disease, limited availability of internet services and less access to health services including primary care.
For the study, experts from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia used data from the National Center for Health Statistics to examine trends in Alzheimer’s death rates between 1999 and 2019 by urbanisation levels.
During this 20-year period, the mortality rate from Alzheimer’s in the overall population significantly increased from 16 to 30 deaths per 100,000, an 88 per cent increase.
Rural areas across the US were shown to have higher mortality rates from Alzheimer’s compared to urban areas.
Those rates were highest in rural areas in the East South Central region at 274 per 100,000 in those 65 years and older – more than three times that of urban areas in the mid-Atlantic region in which mortality rates were the lowest.
‘Our work shows that there is an increasing discrepancy in Alzheimer’s mortality between urban and rural areas,’ said study author Ambar Kulshreshtha.
‘Identifying and understanding the reasons for these health disparities is critical for allocating key social and public health resources appropriately.’
‘In addition, obesity, diabetes and sedentary lifestyles in younger people are rising quickly, and these are risk factors for dementia.
‘Without effective treatments to stop, slow or prevent Alzheimer’s and all dementia, this number will grow beyond 2050 and continue to impact individuals, caregivers, health systems and governments globally.
‘In addition to therapeutics, it’s critical to uncover culturally-tailored interventions that reduce dementia risk through lifestyle factors like education, diet and exercise.’
According to predictions from Alzheimer’s Research UK, one million people in the country will have dementia by 2025, doubling to two million by 2050.
However, some UK-focused research has pointed to a potential drop in the proportion of people living with dementia in any given age group, possibly due to improved levels of education and less smoking.
‘Dementia is our greatest long-term medical challenge,’ Hilary Evans, chief executive of the organisation, told PA news.
‘These striking figures lay bare the shocking scale of dementia on a global scale.’
Another study presented on Tuesday at AAIC investigates younger-onset dementia (YOD), a form of dementia where the onset of symptoms happens before age 65.
Unfortunately, data on YOD is extremely limited, according to a team of experts at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
So they conducted a review of all studies published during the past 30 years that reported figures on how many people developed dementia before the age of 65.
Overall, an estimated 10 in every 100,000 individuals develop dementia with early onset, or prior to age 65.
This corresponds to 350,000 new cases of early onset dementia per year, globally.
Incidence rates for men and women were similar, and were highest for Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia – followed by vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia.
‘Our findings should raise awareness in healthcare professionals, researchers and policy makers because they show that a significant number of people are newly affected by young-onset dementia every year,’ said study leader Stevie Hendriks at Maastricht University.
‘This shows the need for investment in tailored healthcare for this special patient group and more research into how we can best support but also prevent and treat young-onset dementia.’
WHAT IS DEMENTIA? THE KILLER DISEASE THAT ROBS SUFFERERS OF THEIR MEMORIES
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders
A GLOBAL CONCERN
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain) which impact memory, thinking and behaviour.
There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.
Some people may have a combination of types of dementia.
Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.
Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED?
The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, of which more than 500,000 have Alzheimer’s.
It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 will rise to over 1 million.
In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.
As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.
Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.
IS THERE A CURE?
Currently there is no cure for dementia.
But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted the more effective treatments are.
Source: Alzheimer’s Society