Dementia cases could triple by 2050 if countries do not address the risk factors

According to a study published in The Lancet Public Health, the number of people with dementia could triple by 2050. This study is conducted by an international research team with the participation of Dr. Ai Koyanagi and Dr. Jacob Louis of Epidemiology of Mental Disorders and Aging research group from IRSJD.

Dementia is the seventh leading cause of death and one of the leading causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide. Dementia is any decrease in cognition significant enough to interfere with daily and independent functioning. Although it mainly affects older people, it is not an inevitable consequence of aging, and the causes are endless.

Given the projected trends in population aging and population growth, the number of people with dementia is expected to increase. This study is the first to provide an estimate for 204 countries worldwide. The forecast is that adults over the aged 40 with dementia will go from more than 57.4 million cases in 2019 to almost 153 in 2050.

Despite this increase, the prevalence by age remains stable in both sexes, although there are more women with dementia and the trend is expected to continue in the coming years. Cases are expected to increase less in Asia Pacific and Western Europe, while there will be more in North Africa, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, where the largest increase in prevalence is expected.

An increase that, in researchers' opinion, underlines the need for public health plans and policies to meet the needs of this group.

"Facing the magnitude of this growth is crucial to planning and prioritizing public health resources" says the research team as evidence grows that the risk factors leading to deterioration are potentially modifiable. 

In fact, more than 40% of current cases could be avoided or delayed by eliminating exposure to the 12 risk factors known so far: low level of education, high blood pressure, hearing impairment, tobacco, moderate obesity age, depression, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, isolation, excessive alcohol consumption, mental illness, or air pollution. For example, smoking, obesity or diabetes, low education or access to education could reduce the prevalence by more than 6 million cases by 2050.

That is why they also call for a multidisciplinary approach, including interventions to address risk factors, and for investment in research into the biological mechanisms of dementia. An approach that will be key to dealing with the increase in people affected.

The article is part of The Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD), the world's most comprehensive observational epidemiological study to date that provides a powerful resource for understanding the changing health challenges facing people around the world in the 21th century. It is run by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

Source of information

Los casos de demència podrían triplicarse de aquí a 2050 si los paises no afrontan los factores de riesgo. UAM.

"Facing the magnitude of this dementia growth is crucial to planning and prioritizing public health resources"