Dementia cases set to triple worldwide by 2050

  • Date: 12 January 2022

AN estimated 153 million adults worldwide are expected to be living with dementia by 2050 compared to 57 million in 2019, according to research published in The Lancet Public Health.

The rise will be due primarily to population growth and ageing, say researchers.

The study also examined four risk factors for dementia – smoking, obesity, high blood sugar and low education – and highlighted the impact they will have on future trends. The researchers conclude that improvements in global education access are projected to reduce dementia prevalence by 6.2 million cases worldwide by 2050, but this will be countered by anticipated trends in obesity, high blood sugar, and smoking, which are expected to result in an additional 6.8 million dementia cases.

The study projects a rise in dementia cases in every country, with the lowest estimated increases in high-income Asia Pacific (53 per cent) and western Europe (74 per cent), and the highest growth in north Africa and the Middle East (367 per cent) and eastern sub-Saharan Africa (357 per cent).

Lead author Emma Nichols from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington commented: "Our study offers improved forecasts for dementia on a global scale as well as the country-level, giving policy makers and public health experts new insights to understand the drivers of these increases, based on the best available data.

"These estimates can be used by national governments to make sure resources and support are available for individuals, caregivers, and health systems globally.

"At the same time, we need to focus more on prevention and control of risk factors before they result in dementia. Even modest advances in preventing dementia or delaying its progression would pay remarkable dividends. To have the greatest impact, we need to reduce exposure to the leading risk factors in each country. For most, this means scaling up locally appropriate, low-cost programmes that support healthier diets, more exercise, quitting smoking, and better access to education. And it also means continuing to invest in research to identify effective treatments to stop, slow, or prevent dementia."

Dementia is currently the seventh leading cause of death worldwide and a major cause of disability and dependency among older people, with global costs in 2019 estimated at more than US$1 trillion.

Link: Estimation of the global prevalence of dementia in 2019 and forecasted prevalence in 2050: an analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019

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