The new report estimates that 32% of people in the UK born in 2015 will develop dementia in their lifetime unless more is done to combat the condition.
There are currently 46.8 million people worldwide living with dementia, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International, and this number is expected to increase to 131.5 million by 2050 – particularly in developing countries.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting around 5.3 million people in the US alone. Echoing increasing dementia rates around the globe, the number of people with Alzheimer’s in the US is expected to almost triple to 15.8 million by 2050.
Since age is the largest risk factor for dementia – with the condition most common among individuals aged 65 and older – rising dementia rates have been attributed to aging populations and increases in life expectancy across the globe.
This latest report – conducted by the UK’s Office of Health Economics (OHE) – set out to estimate how many people born in the UK this year are likely to develop dementia in their lifetime if no additional efforts are made to combat the condition.
The results revealed that 32% of people born in the UK in 2015 – around 1 in 3 – will develop dementia in their lifetime.
Calculating the numbers by gender, the report estimated that 27% of men and 37% of women born this year will develop dementia in their lifetime.
Call for further research to prevent, treat dementia
According to Dr. Matthew Norton, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, these latest figures represent a “stark reality” that as people are living longer, dementia prevalence is rising, highlighting the need for greater efforts to tackle the disease.
He points to previous research commissioned by Alzheimer’s Research UK that suggests the number of dementia cases could be reduced by a third if onset of the condition could be delayed by 5 years.
However, experts around the globe claim lack of funding for dementia research is one of the greatest barriers to prevention and treatment strategies for the condition.
“Dementia is the biggest health and social care challenge of our generation, but research into the condition has been hugely underfunded. This lack of funding has hampered progress and also restricted the number of scientists and clinicians working in the dementia field,” James Pickett, head of research at the UK’s Alzheimer’s Society, told Medical News Today in a Spotlight last year.
The funding figures back up Pickett’s statement. Last year, cancer received more than $5.3 billion in funding from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). In comparison, Alzheimer’s only received $562 million.
According to Dr. Norton, this latest report emphasizes the need for greater investment in dementia research:
“It’s wonderful news that each generation is living longer than the last, but it’s important to ensure that people can enjoy these extra years in good health.
Dementia is our greatest medical challenge and if we are to beat it, we must invest in research to find new treatments and preventions. […] Research has the power to transform lives, and our actions now will help determine the future for children born today.”
Last week, MNT reported on a study in which researchers claim to have shed light on how stress increases the risk for Alzheimer’s.
Written by Honor Whiteman