10 facts on dementia
Updated September 2019
Dementia is a syndrome, usually of a chronic or progressive nature, caused by a variety of brain illnesses that affect memory, thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday activities.
The number of people living with dementia worldwide is currently estimated at 50 million and will almost triple by 2050.
Dementia is overwhelming not only for the people who have it, but also for their caregivers and families. There is a lack of awareness and understanding of dementia in most countries, resulting in stigmatization, barriers to diagnosis and care, and impacting carers, families and societies physically, psychologically and economically.
Fact 1: Dementia is not a normal part of ageingAlthough dementia mainly affects older people, it is not a normal part of ageing. Dementia is a syndrome, usually of a chronic or progressive nature, caused by a variety of brain illnesses that affect memory, thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday activities.
Fact 2: 50 million people live with dementiaThe total number of people with dementia worldwide in 2015 is estimated at 50 million. Among them, 63% live in low- and middle-income countries, and this proportion is projected to rise to 71% by 2050.
Fact 3: A new case of dementia is diagnosed every 3 secondsThe total number of new cases of dementia each year worldwide is nearly 10 million, implying 1 new case every 3 seconds. The number of people with dementia is expected to increase to 82 million in 2030 and 152 million in 2050.
Fact 4: Huge economic impact; US$ 818 billion per yearThe high cost of the disease will challenge health systems to deal with the predicted future increase of cases. The costs are estimated at US$ 818 billion per year at present and are set to increase even more quickly than the prevalence.
Fact 5: Carers of people with dementia experience high strainCaring for a person with dementia is overwhelming for carers. The stresses include physical, emotional and economic pressures. Carers require support from the health, social, financial and legal systems.
Fact 6: Early diagnosis improves the quality of life of people with dementia and their familiesThe principal goals for dementia care are:
* diagnosing cases early;
* optimising physical health, cognition, activity and well-being;
* detecting and treating behavioural and psychological symptoms; and
* providing information and long-term support to carers.
Fact 7: People with dementia and their families are often discriminated againstPeople with dementia are frequently denied the basic rights and freedoms available to others. For example, physical and chemical restraints are used extensively in aged-care facilities and acute-care settings.
Fact 8: Awareness and advocacy are neededImproving the awareness and understanding of dementia across all levels of society is needed to decrease discrimination and to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their carers.
Fact 9: More research and innovation is requiredMore research is needed to develop new and more effective treatments and to better understand the causes of dementia. Research that identifies the modifiable risk factors of dementia is still scarce.
Fact 10: Dementia is a public health priorityTo address this important health priority there are actions that can be taken:
* make dementia a public health and social care priority everywhere;
* increase dementia awareness and promote a dementia-friendly society (including improve attitudes to, and understanding of, dementia);
* implement interventions aimed at reducing potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia;
* invest in health and social systems to improve diagnosis, treatment and care for people with dementia;
* support dementia careers and their families;
* improve health and social care monitoring of dementia, and
* increase research on dementia and promote innovation.