New projections indicate that the number of individuals with dementia in England and Wales is set to nearly double, reaching 1.7 million by 2040 – 42% higher than previously anticipated, as reported by The Times.
This concerning trend, linked to widening disparities, rising obesity rates, and unhealthy lifestyles, is placing a considerably larger burden on the NHS and social care services, according to a study conducted by University College London.
Presently, an estimated 900,000 people in England and Wales have dementia, but if current patterns persist, this number could swell to 1.2 million by 2030 and a daunting 1.7 million by 2040. The research, published in The Lancet Public Health, analysed data from individuals aged 50 to 80 living in England from 2002 to 2019.
Dementia incidence witnessed a 25% increase between 2008 and 2016. The study suggests that an “epidemic” of obesity and type 2 diabetes, both known risk factors for dementia, might be contributing to this rise. Other potential explanations include deteriorating risk factors among socially disadvantaged groups and enhanced survival rates for stroke patients.
The research also underscores a crucial point: as many as four in ten dementia cases could be prevented through lifestyle improvements, encompassing smoking cessation, weight management, and reduced alcohol consumption.
This update revises a 2017 forecast that foresaw 1.2 million dementia cases by 2040, which was based on older data indicating a decline in dementia rates.
James White, head of national influencing at the Alzheimer’s Society, said:
“Dementia is the biggest health and social care issue of our time. 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. 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.”
Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, added:
“This news highlights the enormous threat dementia poses, for both the public and for our already overstretched health and care workforce. As these figures show, unless urgent action is taken, dementia is set to place a huge and increasing burden on our healthcare system, and to blight millions of futures.
With new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease — the leading cause of dementia — finally on the horizon, we are now in the strongest position yet to bring an end to the devastation this condition causes. Now we must keep up this momentum if we are to free individuals and society from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.’’
A Department of Health spokeswoman said:
“We are providing £160 million a year by 2024-25 for dementia research to accelerate the development of the latest treatments and technology and our Major Conditions Strategy recognises not only the importance of tackling this disease but will set out the standards patients should expect at all stages of dementia care.”