The Staggering Growth of Dementia

December 5, 2013

A report released by Alzheimer’s Disease International provide revised estimates to the number of people currently suffering from dementia and those expected to be suffering from the disease in the next decades.

The numbers have been revised upwards from prior estimates.  Today, the number of people with dementia is believed to be 44 million.  By 2050, Alzheimer’s Disease International says there will be 135 million people globally that suffer from AD.

5This seems like an epidemic, or is it?  On an annual basis, that translates into a compounded growth rate of 3.1 percent.  If we were looking for an investment, we would not get too excited if it paid such a low return.

On the other hand, the world population growth rate is in decline, and much less than 3.1 percent.   According to Wikipedia, the world population growth rate is currently about 1.2 percent and is projected to be about one-half a percent by 2050.  In this light, that the world’s dementia population is growing 5 to 6 times faster than the overall population, the numbers are most worrisome.

You can expect dementia to become more and more an international priority.  So far the biggest impact of dementia has fallen on developed countries that have relatively adequate resources to cope with the disease.  In upcoming decades, a greater share of the burden will fall on middle and low income countries.

Perhaps an offset in their favor will be their larger youth populations and lower income levels that suggest they will have a decent availability of caregivers.  Caring for seniors is a labor-intensive practice and some of the best caregivers in the United States come from poorer countries in Asia and Africa.

What makes dementia most disconcerting is that we have no cure for it.  Science has identified many things we can do to help reduce our risk for the disease but, sooner or later, some of us will get it.

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