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Alzheimer's Society
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Demography

1. Summary

The number of people with dementia is steadily increasing. Alzheimer's Society believes that careful planning for the future is needed now to ensure that the right care and support is available.

The report Dementia UK, published in February 2007, provides the most up-to-date evaluation of the numbers of people with dementia in the UK, projections on numbers of people in the future and the prevalence of dementia. The figures from Dementia UK have been updated to bring them into line with current population data. These figures are summarised below and were published with the launch of our Dementia 2012 report.

2. Background

  • There are 800,000 people in the UK with a form of dementia in 2012
  • There are over 17,000 people under 65 with dementia in the UK in 2012
  • One in 14 people over 65 years of age and one in six people over 80 years of age has a form of dementia

The number of people with dementia in different parts of the UK has been estimated by applying new prevalence figures to estimates of population numbers for 2012:

  • England: 665,065 (2012)
  • Northern Ireland: 18,862 (2012)
  • Wales: 44,598 (2012)

3. Prevalence and incidence

When talking about demography it is important to distinguish between prevalence - the frequency with which dementia occurs in the population, and incidence - the number of new cases of dementia in a given time period.

The well established prevalence rates for dementia in the UK are:

  • 40-64 years: 1 in 1400
  • 65-69 years: 1 in 100
  • 70-79 years: 1 in 25
  • 80+ years: 1 in 6

4. Projected growth

Many people talk about the 'demographic time bomb' or 'tidal wave' of older people, which the state cannot afford to cater for. The Society believes that this is misleading. A steady, rather than dramatic growth is expected over the next 25 years.

The National Dementia Strategy in England and strategies and plans in Wales and Northern Ireland are very important steps to ensuring the needs of people with dementia will be properly addressed in years to come. The use of phrases such as the demographic time bomb, or the view that older people are a burden on our society, does not encourage the view that a sustainable system can be developed.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. The proportions of those with different forms of dementia can be broken down as follows:

5. Younger people and dementia

Dementia in people under the age of 65 is comparatively rare. There are over 17,000 younger people with dementia in the UK. However, this number is likely to be an under estimate and the true figure may be up to three times higher. Data on the numbers of young onset cases are based on referrals to services, which can significantly underestimate the numbers, because not all those with young onset dementia seek help early in the disease course.

6. People from black, asian and minority ethnic groups and dementia

It is estimated that in 2011 there were 25,000 people with dementia from black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups in England and Wales. This number is expected to double to 50,000 by 2026 and rise to over 172,000 by 2051. This is a nearly a seven-fold increase in 40 years, compared to just over a two-fold increase in the numbers of people with dementia across the whole UK population in the same time period.

The proportion of older people from BAME groups in the UK is increasing rapidly as the numbers of older people from these groups increases. However, a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on dementia into dementia among people from BAME groups found they were under-represented in servcies and often diagnosed at a later stage of the illness, or not at all.

7. People with a learning disability and dementia

People with learning disabilities may experience a higher risk of dementia because of premature ageing. Also, people with Down's syndrome have an increased genetic risk of developing dementia. Additional specialist support and services need to be provided to meet their increasing needs.

8. Dementia worldwide

  • There are currently nearly 36 million people with dementia in the world.
  • As many as 28 million of those living with dementia worldwide do not have a diagnosis.
  • The numbers of people living with dementia worldwide is expected to double every 20 years.
  • By 2050 it is projected there will be 115 million people with dementia worldwide, 71 per cent of whom will live in developing countries.
  • The total estimated cost of dementia worldwide is US$604 billion (£380 billion)
  • There are over 6 million people with dementia in Europe.
  • A 2012 report by the World Health Organisation recognised that dementia is a global health challenge and called on countries to recognise this challenge and include dementia in public health planning.

9. The Society campaigns for:

  • Health bodies authorities to research and record both the numbers and projected needs of all people with dementia in order to plan long term care services for them appropriately.
  • All dementia services to be culturally sensitive. The needs of all people with dementia need to be met and person-centred care delivered.
  • Full implementation of the UK National Dementia Strategies.
  • Further collaboration with international partners to promote the exchange of information and practice. The Alzheimer's Society is a member of Alzheimer's International and Alzheimer Europe.

10. References and further information 

Alzheimer's Society Dementia UK report

Alzheimer's Society Dementia 2012 report

All Party Parliamentary Group on dementia Dementia does not discriminate report

World Health Organisation Dementia: a public health priority report

Last updated: July 2013 by Chris Quince

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