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Why dementia is a global crisis

dementia alzheimer doctor patient wellbeing
dementia alzheimer doctor patient wellbeing

Jeremy Hughes

CEO, Alzheimer’s Society & Chair, Global Alzheimer’s and Dementia Action Alliance (GADAA)

In the three seconds it takes you to read this sentence, another person will have developed dementia worldwide.

Dementia is a global health crisis – 50 million live with the condition worldwide and it’s now one of the leading causes of death. We explore why dementia is a global health and development priority that can no longer be ignored.

Dementia costs the global economy $1 trillion annually

That’s a cost greater than the GDP of all but the 15 richest economies in the world. Eighty per cent of these costs account for the unpaid and formal care for people living with dementia, two-thirds of which is delivered by women. Despite this, many countries are unprepared for financing long-term care. As social changes in low-middle income countries (LMICs) mean less family members are able to provide care, the urgent need for social care will shift to the formal sector. The global cost of dementia will double to $2 trillion by 2030.

Yet diagnosis rates are low, research is underfunded and people are receiving sub-standard or no care, with stigma in many communities remaining rife. In some countries, there’s not even a word for dementia.

Dementia is projected to affect 75.6 million by 2030 and almost triple to 131.5 million by 2050

Worryingly, ageing populations – especially in low to middle income countries – are set to exacerbate prevalence rates. The potential ramifications of this are huge. More than half of people with dementia worldwide (58%) live in LMICs – and the number in some regions is expected to increase fivefold by 2050. The number of people living with dementia in high income countries is also expected to double by 2050. With no new drug to reduce symptoms in 15 years, it has never been more vital to invest in research.

An average 3/4 of people with dementia worldwide have not received a diagnosis

As few as one in 10 individuals receive a diagnosis for dementia in low and middle income countries, and less than 50% are diagnosed in high income countries. Globally there is a persistent lack of understanding that dementia is a medical condition and not a normal part of ageing. People living with dementia all over the world desperately need access to a medical practitioner who can provide a diagnosis and help to plan necessary support.

Without action the world is woefully unprepared for the dementia crisis. This World Alzheimer’s Day, GADAA, led by Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer’s Disease InternationaI and others, are urging international civil society to unite in recognising dementia as a core development issue, taking action to beat dementia.

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