1 in 10 seniors in Japan suffers from dementia: Survey

A wife looks after her husband, who suffers from moderate dementia.

More than 3 million elderly people across the nation suffer from dementia, double the number 10 years ago, according to a health ministry estimate.

This means one in 10 people aged 65 or older suffer from the condition--a sharp increase that is far worse than the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry's earlier estimate. As the ministry plans to introduce new measures to help dementia patients next fiscal year, a system to properly address this serious situation is urgently needed.

The survey was the first of its kind since 2002, when dementia patients numbered 1.49 million, and estimates how many seniors suffering from dementia require some kind of daily assistance. Its estimate was calculated using 2010 nursing care insurance data on the number of certified cases of people in need of long-term care.

According to the survey, this number reached 2.8 million in 2010, or 9.5 per cent of the population aged 65 or older, and will reach 3.05 million in 2012.

The number will rise to 3.45 million in 2015 (10.2 per cent of the elderly population), 4.1 million (11.3 per cent) in 2020 and 4.7 million (12.8 per cent) in 2025, according to the survey.

The 2002 survey estimated the number of dementia patients in 2010 would be about 2.08 million, or 7.2 per cent of senior citizens, and 3.23 million, or 9.3 per cent, in 2025.

One factor behind the sharp increase appears to be the rapid aging of society. Another is the increasing number of people visiting hospitals thanks to increased public awareness of the condition. In response to rising public interest, more doctors have become able to correctly diagnose dementia in patients.

The latest estimation will be utilized in a programme to develop new dementia countermeasures, which the ministry plans to put together soon. The new measures will include providing house calls by teams of experts, including nurses, for elderly people who have just begun exhibiting symptoms of dementia, as a measure to avoid long-term hospitalization.