The Global Burden of Disease study, which provides forecasting estimates for 204 countries, estimates that the number of adults (aged 40+) living with dementia is expected to increase from approximately 57 million in 2019 to 153 million in 2050. The new analysis examines the impact of major dementia risk factors on projections, and urges significant intervention through lifestyle changes, expanded health and social care resources and investment in research to find much-needed treatments.
Published today (7 Jan 22) in The Lancet Public Health, the Global Burden of Disease Study adds to existing literature warning of large increases in dementia case numbers over the next 30 years. The condition is currently the seventh leading cause of death worldwide and one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people - with global costs in 2019 estimated at more than US$1 trillion. Specifically, the study is the first to comprehensively analyse data from over 204 countries, and additionally incorporate the projections of some of the major risk factors for dementia - smoking, obesity, high blood sugar, and low education.
Lead author Emma Nichols from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, USA, said:
“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.”
Although dementia mainly affects older people, it is not an inevitable consequence of ageing. A Lancet Commission published in 2020 suggested that up to 40% of dementia cases could be prevented or delayed if exposure to 12 known risk factors were eliminated—low education, high blood pressure, hearing impairment, smoking, midlife obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, social isolation, excessive alcohol consumption, head injury, and air pollution.