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Number of dementia cases predicted to double by 2040

The number of dementia cases is predicted to roughly double by 2040, according to new forecasting data.

The number of dementia cases is predicted to roughly double by 2040, according to new forecasting data.

This means roughly 1.7 million will be living with dementia by 2040 – a rise of 40% (up from 1.2 million) compared to previous estimates based on data up to 2010.

This is because the incidence rate of dementia declined between 2002 and 2008, but new data suggests the incidence began to rise again in the following decade.

Previous estimates predicted roughly 1 million people would be living with dementia by 2040

This new forecast is based on nine waves of data from people over the age of 50 and living in private households in England between 2002 and 2019, from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).

The study, which is published in The Lancet Public Health, was funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council.

By examining this data, the researchers found that the dementia incidence rate decreased by 28.8% between 2002 and 2008. However, it started to increase again from 2008, and rose by 25.2% between 2008 and 2016.

This means the incidence rate increased at a rate of 2.8% per year between 2008 and 2016, and the researchers say if this trend continues, there will be 1.7 million people living with dementia by 2040 – approximately twice the number in 2023.

If dementia rates had continued to decline like they did between 2002 and 2008, there would be roughly one million people living with dementia by 2040.

 The number of people developing dementia within older age groups is increasing

The researchers found that similar non-linear patterns were observed across subgroups according to age, sex, and educational attainment.

For example, in participants with lower educational attainment, there was a decline between 2002 and 2008 and an increase after 2008. However, the decline was slower before 2008 and faster after, adding to disparities between educational groups.

Although an increase in dementia cases has often been attributed to an ageing population, the researchers also found that the rate of dementia onset within older age groups is also increasing.

Principal investigator, Professor Eric Brunner (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care), said: “Our research has exposed that dementia is likely to be a more urgent policy problem than previously recognised – even if the current trend continues for just a few years.

“We have found that not only is the ageing population a major driver of the trend in England and Wales but also the number of people developing dementia within older age groups is increasing.

“We don’t know how long this pattern will continue but the UK needs to be prepared so we can ensure that everyone affected, whatever their financial circumstances, is able to access the help and support that they need.”

Action needed to ensure people with dementia can receive timely diagnoses and access social care

James White, Alzheimer’s Society’s Head of National Influencing, is now urging health leaders to take urgent action to ensure people with dementia can receive a timely diagnosis and that they have access to good care.

He said: “Dementia is the biggest health and social care issue of our time. Statistics from this Lancet Public Health study are a stark reminder that, without action, the individual and economic devastation caused by dementia shows no sign of stopping.

“We know that one in three people born in the UK today will develop this terminal condition in their lifetime. With prevalence on the rise, improving diagnosis has never been more important. Everyone living with dementia must have access to a timely, accurate and specific diagnosis, and who you are or where you live should have no bearing on this.

“The figures also make it clear that pressure on our already struggling social care system is only going to increase. Quality social care can make a huge difference to people’s lives, but we know that people with dementia – who are the biggest users of social care – are struggling with a care system that’s costly, difficult to access, and too often not tailored to their needs.”

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