Researchers project number of dementia cases to triple by 2050

Dementia affects about 55 million cases worldwide, but experts expect that number to triple in the coming years. The new estimate is that by 2050, the number of people with dementia will be over 152 million. The most dementia cases are projected to be in eastern sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East.

The tripling dementia cases include the 6.2 million cases expected to be averted with expanded access to global education.

“Improvements in lifestyle in adults in developed countries and other places — including increasing access to education and greater attention to heart health issues — have reduced incidence in recent years, but total numbers with dementia are still going up because of the aging of the population,” said Maria C. Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer in a press release. “In addition, obesity, diabetes and sedentary lifestyles in younger people are rising quickly, and these are risk factors for dementia.”

The estimates were based on data collection from 1999 to 2019 from the Global Burden of Disease study, which collects estimates of worldwide health trends. They project the rate of dementia will increase from an estimated 57.4 million global cases in 2019 to 152.8 million by 2050.

The onset of dementia is influenced by factors such as smoking, high body mass index, and high fasting plasma glucose. These factors specifically will be the cause for 6.8 million dementia cases globally.

The increase in cases is likely from population growth and aging. The U.S. National Institute on Aging estimates the number of people over 65 will increase from 8% in 2010 to 16% by 2050.

“These estimates will allow policymakers and decision makers to better understand the expected increases in the number of individuals with dementia as well as the drivers of these increases in a given geographical setting,” said Emma Nichols, MPH, a researcher with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine in an AAIC22 press release. “The large anticipated increase in the number of individuals with dementia emphasizes the vital need for research focused on the discovery of disease-modifying treatments and effective low-cost interventions for the prevention or delay of dementia onset.”

The report was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2021 in Denver and virtually.

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About the Author

Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor’s of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women’s health.

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