December 8, 2017
Dementia is a global epidemic that affects people all over the planet, and without treatment or effective drugs, it’s a problem that isn’t going away any time soon. The number of people with dementia is expected to triple over the next 30 years, according to the World Health Organization. Right now, around 50 million people are estimated to live with dementia. By 2050, WHO predicts that number will rise to 152 million.
“Nearly 10 million people develop dementia each year, 6 million of them in low- and middle-income countries,” said Tedros Adhanom, WHO Director-General.
The surge has to do in part with better detection methods for dementia, and in part with an aging population that is living longer. The world’s population of people over 60 is set to double between 2015 and 2050. And that means costs will rise alongside that number. The annual cost of dementia is around $818 billion worldwide. That number is expected to soar to $2 trillion by 2050. Experts warn that the cost could overwhelm social and health systems to the point of collapse—even if we do find a treatment.
“With an aging population and no way to cure, prevent or slow down the condition, dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer,” said Dominic Carter, Senior Policy Officer at Alzheimer’s Society.
A separate study from the University of California, Los Angeles has predicted that nearly 47 million Americans over 30 are likely in the pre-clinical stages of Alzheimer’s. That means they have the physical biomarkers of the disease—tau accumulation and beta-amyloid plaques—but not the obvious outward symptoms.
The World Health Organization is launching a global monitoring system for dementia, the first of its kind. The Global Dementia Observatory is a web platform that will track progress of services for people who have dementia and their caregivers and monitor policy and prevention measures and plans for providing treatment.
“The suffering that results is enormous. This is an alarm call: we must pay greater attention to this growing challenge and ensure that all people living with dementia, wherever they live, get the care that they need,” said Adhanom.