The total estimated worldwide cost of dementia has reached $818 billion dollars (UK £521 billion) and will become a trillion dollar disease by 2018, finds the World Alzheimer Report 2015. In Europe there has been a significant increase in the costs expected for 2015, up from $240 billion in 2010 to $300 billion today (UK £191 billion).
If dementia care were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy – more than the market value of companies such as Apple (US $742 billion/ UK £472) and Google (US $368 billion/ UK £234)*.
The report, which was commissioned by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), calls for the UK and countries around the world to invest more in care and research to tackle what this new data confirms is a global epidemic. It shows that Western Europe has the second largest population of people living with dementia – with 7.4 million people thought to have the condition.
The updated global prevalence, incidence and cost estimates are based on new research led by Professor Martin Prince from King’s College London’s Global Observatory for Ageing and Dementia Care**. These new findings take into account both the growing numbers of older people (population ageing), and new and better evidence on the number of people living with dementia, and costs incurred. The Western Europe figures are an average of the prevalence from all the studies conducted in the region. Regionally, Europe will account for a quarter of the new cases of dementia in 2015.
Alzheimer’s Disease International recommends that at least 1% of the overall global cost of dementia should be spent on research – in the UK, the cost to the economy is £26.3 billion yet less than £74 million – or 0.28% – was spent on research in 2013.
The research highlights the increasing impact of dementia on low and middle income countries (LMICs). It is estimated that 58% of all people living with dementia today reside in LMICs, a proportion that is anticipated to rise to 68% by 2050, driven mainly by population growth and an ageing global population. It is also expected that by 2050, nearly half of all people with dementia globally will live in Asia.
It is estimated that there are currently 46.8 million people living with dementia around the world – more than the population of Spain. Numbers are projected to nearly double every 20 years, increasing to 74.7 million by 2030 and 131.5 million by 2050. There are over 9.9 million new cases of dementia each year worldwide – the equivalent to one every 3 seconds. Professor Martin Prince noted: “We now believe that we underestimated the current and future scale of the epidemic by 12-13% in the 2009 World Alzheimer Report, with costs growing more rapidly than the numbers of people affected.”
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This new research exposes the staggering financial and human impact of dementia. It leaves us with no doubt that dementia is the biggest public health and social care challenge facing people today and in the future. Our system urgently needs to be geared up to meet the needs of people with dementia.
“The cost of dementia continues to soar, yet research spending does not even equal 1% of this amount – it is six times lower than cancer research spending. There has been some welcome indication recently that improvements in healthcare, lifestyle, education and living standards in Western Europe may be playing a role in reducing dementia prevalence. Yet we also know that other risk factors, such as diabetes, are increasing.
“What’s important is that we do not become complacent about the magnitude of the challenge that we face, and seek to address it with proper funding for care and research.”
Continuing the trend noted in the World Alzheimer Report 2009, proportionate increases in the number of people living with dementia will be much steeper in low and middle income countries. Between 2015 and 2050, the number of people living with dementia in what are now high income countries will increase by 116%. This compares to a 227% increase in upper middle income countries, 223% in lower middle income countries and 264% in low income countries.
Between 2015 and 2050, the number of older people living in higher income countries is forecast to increase by just 56%, compared with 138% in upper middle income countries, 185% in lower middle income countries and 239% (more than a three-fold increase) in low income countries.
Alzheimer’s Disease International, Alzheimer’s Society and charities around the globe are calling for dementia risk reduction to be an explicit priority in work led by the World Health Organization (WHO), arguing that research investment for dementia should be scaled up, proportionate to the societal cost of the disease. It should be balanced between prevention, treatment, care and cure.
In light of the findings, the report calls for a specific global workstream from all stakeholders focused on assisting LMICs to develop programmes to raise awareness and improve access to early diagnosis and care. ADI is urging policy makers around the world to approach the issue with a broader agenda and a wider representation of countries and regions, particularly those in the G20 group of nations.
Marc Wortmann, Executive Director of ADI, commented: “The rising global cost of dementia will pose serious challenges to health and social care systems all around the world. These findings demonstrate the urgent need for governments to implement policies and legislation to provide a better quality of life for people living with dementia, both now and in the future.”
*source: Forbes 2015 ranking
**The King’s College London Global Observatory works in collaboration with researchers from other universities. Economic costs were estimated by Professor Anders Wimo from the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, and the searches of Chinese language databases were led by Dr Yu-Tzu Wu from the University of Cambridge.
ADI is the international federation of 83 Alzheimer associations around the world, of which Alzheimer’s Society is the UK member.