Dementia cases projected to triple by 2050

key takeaways

  • Global dementia cases are expected to nearly triple by 2050. The key factors are population growth and an aging population, according to a new analysis.
  • Some regions of the world – such as North Africa, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa – are projected to see the largest increases in dementia.
  • A key factor attributed to the rise is increased longevity. Increased rates of obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and smoking also play a role, as these are risk factors for dementia.

The number of people with dementia worldwide will nearly triple by 2050, according to new estimates. The prevalence of dementia is projected to increase from less than 60 million cases in 2019 to nearly 153 million cases globally in 2050.

North Africa, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa are expected to see the largest increase, with an increase of more than 300%.

The analysis was carried out by international researchers and published in Lancet Public Health.

Emma Nichols, MPH, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, told VigorTip that the study “looks at predicting the prevalence of dementia by 2050 as part of the Global Burden of Disease Study. Part of this is a larger effort to comprehensively quantify the burden of different diseases around the world and over time.”

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Where will dementia cases rise the most?

Estimating the burden of a disease or condition, such as dementia, can underscore its importance, Nichols said. It could also call on governments to take action to develop or expand intervention programs and services for the future, and to invest in more research and basic science.

According to the report, the smallest increase in dementia prevalence is likely to occur in Japan (27%), and the largest increase is expected to be in Qatar (1,926%).

The U.S. is projected to increase by 100 percent, meaning that by 2050, dementia cases in the U.S. could double.

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Focus on dementia risk

Researchers have highlighted some of the most important risk factors that will contribute to increasing numbers of people with dementia worldwide.

age

Expected growth in the global population and increased life expectancy around the world are the two biggest factors driving more dementia cases in the coming years. “Age is by far the biggest risk factor for dementia,” Nichols said.

Gayatri Devi, MD

There will be quite a significant increase in dementia around the world as more people will be living in the higher age range.

— Gayatri Devi, MD

Gayatri Devi, MD, clinical professor of neurology and psychology at Hofstra University’s Zucker School of Medicine, attending physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, and fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, told VigorTip, “There will be a significant increase in dementia around the world. increase because more people will be living in the higher age range.”

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lifestyle and diet

Risk factors for dementia, including obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar (sugar) levels and smoking, are also expected to increase in the coming decades.

“The Western diet is making huge strides in poor and underdeveloped countries,” Devi said. “This diet is prone to many of the risk factors that constitute dementia.” Living a sedentary lifestyle can also lead to obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

While developed countries may be working to mitigate the risks posed by these factors, many developing countries have not, Devi noted.

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education level

Lower education levels are another risk factor for dementia. The analysis predicts that improving access to education could reduce dementia by about 6 million cases, but that still won’t offset the projected increase of 7 million cases linked to obesity, high blood sugar and smoking.

According to Nichols, education is thought to reduce the risk of dementia through the so-called cognitive reserve hypothesis.

Devi added that education “tends to provide a degree of resilience in the face of pathology” — in other words, the brains of educated or self-taught people have a reserve and increased flexibility to support it.

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Can the rise be prevented?

The global increase in dementia cases could be avoided if the focus was on prevention. According to Nichols, the report’s estimates “can be used to guide policy and decision makers in understanding the scale of these supports and services that will be needed in the future and to be well prepared, so we are not surprised.”

For now, more research is needed on dementia—especially in terms of treatment and prevention. “We need to invest in research to better understand disease mechanisms and develop these therapies, but at the same time we cannot count on these efforts to be successful,” Nichols said.

what does this mean to you

The number of people living with dementia worldwide is projected to increase significantly by 2050. Several factors are at play, such as people living longer and lifestyle habits that increase their risk of dementia.

However, with more public health attention and research to reduce risk factors, researchers believe the increase in dementia prevalence could be avoided.

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