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article imageStudy: Worldwide dementia cases will triple by 2050

By Robert Myles     Dec 5, 2013 in Health
London - The numbers of worldwide dementia sufferers increased by 22 percent over the last three years according to a new study published Thursday. By 2050, there could be almost 150 million sufferers globally.
A report, titled, “Dementia: a public health priority” and co-authored by the non-profit Alzheimer's Disease International and the World Health Organization (WHO), says those currently suffering from dementia number 44 million, up from 35.6 million three years ago. That figure is set to almost triple. The authors of the study estimate that by 2050, 135 million people across the globe will see their health and well-being suffer because of dementia.
Dementia is a syndrome, usually of a chronic nature, caused by a number of progressive disorders that affect memory, thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, possibly contributing to up to 70% of cases.
Global epidemic
Commenting on the launch of the study, Marc Wortmann, Executive Director of Alzheimer's Disease International, said, “This is a global epidemic, and it is getting worse - if we look at the future, we see the number of elderly will increase dramatically."
Mr. Wortmann called for the WHO to focus more on Alzheimer's disease, adding, “It is vital that the World Organization of Health to make dementia a priority, so that the world is prepared to cope with this situation."
Publication of the report comes ahead of a G8 dementia summit meeting scheduled to start in London on Dec. 11. The special summit will bring together government ministers, researchers, representatives from pharmaceutical companies and charities. The aims of the G8 dementia summit are threefold: to stimulate greater investment and innovation in dementia research, to improve the prevention and treatment of dementia and, lastly, to improve quality of life for people with dementia.
So why is dementia being singled out for the special treatment of a G8 summit dedicated to that purpose?
As Beth Britton, freelance writer and campaigner on issues affecting older people, writes in a recent Huffington Post blog, dementia is just playing catch-up when it comes to grabbing the public’s attention. As she points out, HIV/AIDS featured prominently at the 2005 G8 Summit whilst in the United Kingdom, the research budget dedicated to cancer is eight times that of dementia.
At present, 38 per cent of dementia cases occur in rich countries but that is likely to change over the next four decades. By 2050, according to the new “Dementia: a public health priority” report, estimate 71% of dementia cases will be in poor and low-income countries. There is currently little infrastructure in place, even in richer countries, to cope with such a huge upsurge in cases. The report says that a mere eight countries worldwide currently have national programmes in place to address dementia.
The report contains a number of recommendations which include:
• introducing programs focused on improving early diagnosis
• raising public awareness about dementia
• reducing what it says is often the stigma attached to the disease
• providing better care and more support to caregivers.
Absence of diagnosis is a major concern, even in rich countries, where only one fifth to one half of dementia cases is routinely recognized. Where there is a diagnosis, it often comes when the disease has been long established.
Dr Oleg Chestnov, Assistant Director-General, Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health at WHO, commented, “We need to increase our capacity to detect dementia early and to provide the necessary health and social care. Much can be done to decrease the burden of dementia. Health-care workers are often not adequately trained to recognize dementia."
On raising public awareness and reducing the stigma sometimes attaching to dementia, the report highlights a general lack of information and understanding about the disease. As a consequence, this fuels stigma, in turn contributing to the social isolation of both the person with dementia and their caregivers. As a result, there can sometimes be delays in seeking diagnosis, health assistance and social support.
As Marc Wortmann put it, "Public awareness about dementia, its symptoms, the importance of getting a diagnosis, and the help available for those with the condition is very limited. It is now vital to tackle the poor levels of public awareness and understanding, and to drastically reduce the stigma associated with dementia."
Research into Alzheimer’s and other dementia conditions has a lot of catching up to do. Without such research, not only is dementia likely to become a greater societal and economic problem worldwide, there’s a high probability of it becoming an epidemic of global proportions blighting the lives not just of those unfortunate enough to suffer from it, but also their loved ones.
More about Dementia, Longevity, Aging population, Alzheimer disease, Alzheimer's disease
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