Dementia a 'trillion dollar disease' by 2018: Report

The annual economic and societal costs for dementia will rise from $818 billion to $1 trillion (S$1.4 trillion) within the next three years and pose serious challenges for global governments, according to a new report.

The new research, published by the London-based Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) on Tuesday, suggests that more than 9.9 million new cases of dementia are found every year globally. This is equivalent to one every 3.2 seconds, it stated.

"The rising global cost of dementia will pose serious challenges to health and social care systems all around the world," said Marc Wortmann, executive director of ADI, in a statement. Wortmann added that the report's discoveries underlined governments' need to instigate policies and legislation to alleviate the situation.

It estimates that 46.8 million individuals currently live with dementia, however, this figure is expected to almost treble by 2050, to 131.5 million, it added.

At present, 58 per cent of sufferers are living in low and middle income countries, according to the report, with 22.9 million currently living in Asia. However, the research suggests this percentage will increase to 68 per cent by 2050.

By calculating the current global costs for dementia, the report suggests the world will be paying $1 trillion by 2018 and $2 trillion by 2030. Costs follow a similar trend to its geographical statistics, with fees seen considerably higher in East Asia and Africa.

Consequently, the report's authors are now calling on the World Health Organisation and governments to intensify their research investment on dementia, and encourage the growth of "dementia-friendly communities and countries," through greater support.

Bupa's Global Director of Dementia Care, Professor Graham Stokes, commented on the report saying in a statement that employers could utilize this opportunity as the workplace is a "unique place to tackle dementia."

With people choosing to stay in employment longer, encouragement towards healthier ways of living could reduce the risk of dementia in the long term, he added.

However, this report researched independently by King's College London and supported by Bupa, could see some critics. Recent studies have counteracted the belief of a "dementia epidemic."

The Institute of Public Health at Cambridge University published a study last week suggesting that concerns over a "dementia epidemic" were inconclusive. It stated the risk of dementia potentially even declining in places like the UK

Other studies done in Western Europe, suggests that in some countries, the dementia rate is "stabilizing," supported by better living conditions, education and prevention methods.