Dementia cases are rising much faster than experts previously thought, according to new research.
Up to 1.7 million people could be living with the disease in England and Wales by 2040, according to the University College London (UCL) study published in the journal Lancet Public Health.
Previous analysis of pre-2010 data suggested dementia cases were declining in high-income countries.
However, new research shows dementia ramped up in England and Wales after 2008 and is particularly affecting people who didn’t do as well at school.
As a result, scientists predict that in the future far more people will have dementia than expected – and they are not just putting it down to the aging population.
Experts previously projected that dementia cases would rise by 57 percent, from 0.77 million in 2016 to 1.2 million in 2040.
But the UCL team says the figure could be as high as 1.7 million – nearly double the number of incidents this year.
“It is shocking to think that the number of people living with dementia by 2040 may be up to 70 percent higher than if dementia incidence had continued to decline,” said Lead author Dr. Yuntao Chen.
“Not only will this have a devastating effect on the lives of those involved but it will also put a considerably larger burden on health and social care than current forecasts predict.
“Continued monitoring of the incidence trend will be crucial in shaping social care policy.”
Rising dementia cases is often attributed to an aging population, but experts found it is increasingly prevalent within older age groups.
“Our research has exposed that dementia is likely to be a more urgent policy problem than previously recognized – even if the current trend continues for just a few years,” said Principal investigator Professor Eric Brunner.
“We have found that not only is the ageing population a major driver of the trend in England and Wales but also the number of people developing dementia within older age groups is increasing.
“We don’t know how long this pattern will continue but the UK needs to be prepared so we can ensure that everyone affected, whatever their financial circumstances, is able to access the help and support that they need.”
The team analyzed nine datasets from people over 50 years old who lived in a private household in England between 2002 and 2019.
They discovered the number with dementia fell by 28.8 percent between 2002 and 2008.
However, it then increased by 25.2 percent between 2008 and 2016.
A similar pattern remained regardless of age, sex, and educational attainment.
They also observed that between 2002 and 2008 there was a slower decline in dementia cases among those with lower educational attainment.
There was then a sharper rise in the same bracket between 2008 and 2016.
James White, Alzheimer’s Society’s Head of National Influencing, said: “Dementia is the biggest health and social care issue of our time.
“Statistics from this Lancet Public Health study are a stark reminder that, without action, the individual and economic devastation caused by dementia shows no sign of stopping.
“We know that one in three people born in the UK today will develop this terminal condition in their lifetime.
“With prevalence on the rise, improving diagnosis has never been more important. Everyone living with dementia must have access to a timely, accurate and specific diagnosis, and who you are or where you live should have no bearing on this.”
He added: “The figures also make it clear that pressure on our already struggling social care system is only going to increase.
“Quality social care can make a huge difference to people’s lives, but we know that people with dementia – who are the biggest users of social care – are struggling with a care system that’s costly, difficult to access, and too often not tailored to their needs.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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