World Alzheimer's Report 2015: Global Impact of Dementia

Pauline Anderson

August 27, 2015

About 9.9 million new cases of dementia will be diagnosed this year around the world — that's 1 case every 3 seconds.

Globally, the number of people now living with dementia is expected to rise from the current 46 million to 131.5 million by 2050.

Costs to treat dementia here and elsewhere are estimated at about $818 billion US but are expected to soar to $1 trillion by 2018 and to a whopping $2 trillion by 2030.

These are just some of the sobering statistics contained in the "World Alzheimer Report 2015: The Global Impact of Dementia," released earlier this week by Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI), a worldwide federation of Alzheimer associations.

The 88-page report, prepared by a team of authors led by Professor Martin Prince, The Global Observatory for Ageing and Dementia Care, King's College London, United Kingdom, updates data on the prevalence, incidence, cost, and trends of dementia worldwide and estimates how these numbers will increase in future.

About half of the projected increases in costs due to dementia can be attributed to growth in the numbers of people with dementia and half to increases in per capita costs, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Prevalence estimates in the new report differ from those in the last "World Alzheimer Report," released in 2009, because of changes in the quality of available evidence, according to the authors.

Despite interest in the possibility that the age-specific prevalence of dementia may be declining in high-income countries because of public health improvements, "the evidence to support this is currently weak and inconclusive," said the report.

Global Challenge

There's no doubt that dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, is one of the biggest global public health and social care challenges facing people today and in the future, according to a foreword to the document written by Glenn Rees, chairman of ADI, and Stuart Fletcher, CEO, Bupa, a global health and care company providing specialist dementia care for about 60,000 people each year.

If dementia care were a country, they said, it would be the world's 18th largest economy, more than the market values of companies such as Apple (US$ 742 billion), Google (US$ 368 billion), and Exxon (US$ 357 billion).

In many parts of the world, a diagnosis of dementia can still bring with it stigma and social isolation, they write. About 94% of people living with dementia in low- and middle-income countries are cared for at home. In many regions, health and care systems provide limited or no support to people living with dementia or to their families.

Dementia, according to authors of the foreword, should be an international health priority. National dementia plans, they said, are the first step toward ensuring all countries are equipped to enable people to live well with dementia and help to reduce the risk for dementia in years to come.

"[W]e're calling on governments and every part of society to play an active role in helping to create a world where people can enjoy a better quality of life today, and also help reduce the risk of dementia for future generations."

In the report, the ADI applauded the action taken by the G7 in launching the Global Action Against Dementia; recognized the considerable efforts of the Global Dementia Envoy, the World Dementia Council, and the G7 governments over the past 18 months; and said it "wholeheartedly endorses" all aspects of the call for action issued at the World Health Organization's first ministerial Conference for Dementia.

The report authors said a global dementia action plan needs clear targets and deliverables. Providing a better quality of life for people with dementia can be a reality, but only if governments and societies make it an urgent priority, they write.

New Cases

"What's clear from this new report — and from others, such as the Alzheimer's Association's 2015 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures — is that: the number of people worldwide living with dementia is growing, especially in low and middle income countries; the number of new cases of dementia worldwide is growing, especially in low and middle income countries; and the cost of caring for people with dementia worldwide is growing," said Keith Fargo, PhD, Alzheimer's Association director of scientific programs and outreach.

"As a result, Alzheimer's and other dementias are a expanding crisis for families and the economy — in the U.S. and around the world. Here at home, the federal government must address the personal and societal challenges posed by Alzheimer's, and take bold action now to confront this epidemic. For example, we must increase the federal investment in Alzheimer's disease research — the only way we are going to stop this epidemic. The Alzheimer's Association calls on Congress to continue its commitment to the fight against Alzheimer's by increasing funding for research by at least $300 million in fiscal year 2016."

Access to care planning must be improved, he concludes. "The Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education for Alzheimer's Act (known as the HOPE Act) would provide Medicare coverage for comprehensive care planning services — for both people with Alzheimer's and caregivers — following a diagnosis."

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