Global incidence of dementia more than doubles

The number of people living with dementia around the world has more than doubled to almost 44 million since 1990, according to a global study.

The number of people living with dementia around the world has more than doubled to almost 44 million since 1990, according to a global study.

The figure, which the report says is mainly a reflection of the growth and ageing of the world’s population, is estimated to reach around 100 million by 2050.

“Until breakthroughs are made in prevention or curative treatment, dementia will constitute an increasing challenge to health-care systems worldwide,” the study says.

The report, published The Lancet Neurology, is based on a global study of disease undertaken by international collaborators including Australian experts.

It’s the first detailed analysis of the global prevalence, mortality, and overall burden of dementia as captured by the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors (GBD) Study 2016, which looked at data from 195 countries and territories from 1990 to 2016.

The study found in 2016 there were 43.8 million people with dementia around the world, a 117 per cent increase from 20.2 million in 1990.

That represented a 1.7 per cent increase from 701 people per 100,000 in 1990 to 712 per 100,000 in 2016.

More women than men had dementia and it was the fifth leading cause of death globally, killing 2.4 million.

Dementia in Australia

Dr Kaele Stokes, Executive Director Policy and Research at Dementia Australia, says the findings of the global report reinforce Australian research and analysis.

“The growing prevalence of dementia is unfortunately not a surprise to us,” she told Community Care Review.

“We know from our own research that we have more that 436,000 Australians living with dementia in Australia and the number is projected to increase to 1 million people by 2058.

“The trend is mirrored in both our data and the data that is captured in this report in terms of increasing numbers of people living with dementia.”

She said as the numbers of people living with dementia increased it would throw up challenges for health , disability and ageing policy and planning.

Risk factors

The report says the GBD identified four risk factors that were judged to have enough evidence for a causal link to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias: high BMI, high fasting plasma glucose, smoking and high intake of sugary drinks.

The article also pointed to other possible risks including hearing loss, education, smoking, depression, lack of physical activity, social isolation, obesity and diabetes.

“In the context of our finding of a doubling of the prevalence of this terminal disease every 5 years over age 50 years, and the absence of a cure, the impetus to examine risk factors is clear,” the study concludes.

The risk factors were also consistent with the findings of Dementia Australia, Dr Stokes said.

“In terms of modifiable risk factors we know that basically what’s good for your heart is good for your brain.

“Maintaining a good level of exercise, keeping your brain active, having a healthy diet and maintaining a good level of social engagement is really important.”

People living with dementia by country

  • Global – 43.8 million
  • Australia – 211, 000 (AIHW statistics, which use a different data set put the figure at 354,000)
  • North America – 4.4 million
  • Western Europe – 6.5 million
  • China – 10.5 million
  • Japan – 3.5 million
  • Southeast Asia – 3.4 million
  • North Africa and Mideast – 2.6 million
  • Oceania – 28,064

(Source: Global, regional, and national burden of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016)

You can read the full report here

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