The number of adults worldwide with dementia could rise from about 57.4 million in 2019 to 152.8 million by 2050, driven by factors like midlife obesity, smoking and social isolation, according to a study published Thursday by the Lancet.
While improvements in education are forecast to reduce dementia cases by 6.2 million in 2050, researchers said this would be counteracted by trends in obesity, high blood sugar and smoking, which are projected to cause an additional 6.8 million cases, the Guardian reported.
Risk factors for dementia also include hypertension, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption, head injury, exposure to air pollution and low education, researchers said.
The rate of dementia is projected to rise in every country, ranging from a 1,926% increase in Qatar to a 27% increase in Japan, while dementia cases in the U.S. are expected to increase by about 99.67%.
Researchers estimated that dementia prevalence would increase by roughly 117% by 2050 due to growth of the elderly population alone, a factor forecast to have the severest impact in East Asia.
Globally, there will be 83.2 million adults with dementia in 2030 and 116 million in 2040, researchers estimated.
To reduce the risk of dementia, policymakers must support low-cost programs promoting exercise, a healthy diet and quitting smoking, lead author Emma Nichols, a researcher at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told the Guardian.
Dementia is a syndrome, usually progressive, that harms memory and other functions of thought beyond what would usually be expected from aging. Though dementia can result from Alzheimer’s disease or from a stroke, it is not an inevitable consequence of aging, the World Health Organization said. A 2020 study published by the Lancet suggested that low education might be a risk factor for dementia, because improved health education helps decrease the risk of head injury or of excessive alcohol drinking.
$818 billion. That’s the annual global cost of treating dementia, the WHO estimated in 2017.
Researchers are exploring vaccines or treatments for Alzheimer’s, the disease that causes 60-70% of all dementia cases, according to WHO estimates. In November, Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital began early trials of a nasal spray that could become the first Alzheimer’s vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration has also fast-tracked trials of Biogen and Esai’s lecanemab, a therapy which could treat early forms of the disease, Reuters reported.
Famous figures who were diagnosed with dementia include actress Rita Hayworth, actor James Stewart, former President Ronald Reagan and former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
“Number of adults with dementia to exceed 150m by 2050, study finds” (Guardian)
By Zachary Snowdon Smith, Forbes Staff