Number of dementia sufferers ‘will double every 20 years’

The number of people across the world with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is predicted to almost double every 20 years as life expectancy increases, a new analysis says today.

British experts estimate that more than 115 million people worldwide will suffer from the degenerative mental condition by 2050, compared to 35.6 million people by next year.

At present, some 700,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, with more than half of these suffering from Alzheimer’s.

The latest global estimates represent a 10 per cent rise on the last predictions published in The Lancet medical journal in 2005.

The new figures are influenced by research from low and middle income countries which show more people are affected than previously thought in South Asia, Latin America and Western Europe.

It had previously been predicted that in less than 20 years nearly a million people in the UK would be living with dementia, soaring to 1.7 million people by 2051.

The latest World Alzheimer’s Report, published by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), a coaltion of dementia charities, predicts that, over the next 20 years, the number of people with dementia is expected to increase by 40 per cent in Europe, 63 per cent in North America, 77 per cent in southern Latin American and 89 per cent in developed Asia Pacific countries.

The demographic ageingis also proceeding most rapidly in countries like China, India and Latin America, the study said.

Rates of dementia will more than double in Asia, Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East.

Professor Martin Prince, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, led the research and said taht it foretold increasing pressure on carers.

He said: “In all parts of the world, carers, who are most commonly female and the spouses or children of the persons with dementia, often experience high levels of strain.

“Studies reviewed in the new report suggest that half to three-quarters of carers have significant psychological illness, while up to a third have clinical depression.

“While these numbers are staggering, the current investment in research, treatment and care is actually quite disproportionate to the overall impact of the disease on people with dementia, their carers, on health and social care systems, and on society.”

Marc Wortmann, executive director of the ADI, said: “The crisis of dementia and Alzheimer’s can no longer be ignored.Unchecked, Alzheimer’s will impose enormous burdens on individuals, families, health care infrastructures, and the global economy.”

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said: “The British health system is already struggling to cope with our ageing population; if we do not make substantial and swift progress in dementia research, the global consequences will be catastrophic.”

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This worldwide problem needs a response from every nation and the UK government must play a key part.

“We must see public awareness campaigns, improvements in dementia care and an increase in funding for dementia research. With the right investment, dementia can be defeated.”