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55m people living with dementia globally

55m people living with dementia globally
  • Diplomatic Correspondent
  • 3 September, 2021 12:00 AM
  • Print news

More than 55 million people globally are living with dementia, and that number continues to grow, according to a new UN health agency report launched on Thursday, which notes that only one-quarter of the world’s countries have national policies, strategies or support plans in place.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global status report on the public health response to dementia, reveals that the European Region hosts half of all countries offering effective support.

Yet even in Europe, many plans are expiring, or have already expired, indicating a need for renewed government commitments. “Dementia robs millions of people of their memories, independence and dignity, but it also robs the rest of us of the people we know and love,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Dementia is caused by a variety of diseases and injuries that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease or stroke. It affects memory and other cognitive functions, as well as the ability to perform everyday tasks.

“The world is failing people with dementia, and that hurts all of us”, said Tedros. “Four years ago, governments agreed a clear set of targets to improve dementia care. But targets alone are not enough.”

The disability associated with dementia is a key driver of costs related to the condition. In 2019, the global price tag was estimated at $1.3 trillion – a number that is projected to rise to $1.7 trillion by 2030, or $2.8 trillion if care costs are included. At the same time, the report explains that the number of people living with dementia is growing.

WHO estimates that 8.1 per cent of women and 5.4 per cent of men over age 65 currently live with the condition – and is estimated to rise to 78 million by 2030, and to 139 million by 2050.

The type and level of services provided by the health and social care sectors also determine the level of informal support that is primarily provided by family members, the report notes. While social care costs make up over a third, informal care accounts for about half the global cost of dementia.

In low and middle-income countries, 65 per cent of the costs are attributable to informal care while that number drops to approximately 40 per cent in richer countries. A series of unsuccessful clinical trials for treatments combined with high research and development costs have led to reluctance to carry out further studies.

However, the GDO shows that funding has increased recently in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and other high-income countries, including an annual investment in US Alzheimer’s disease research from $631 million in 2015, to an estimated $2.8 billion in 2020.