Dementia research investment needs to reflect the enormous cost of dementia care

In light of new figures on the cost of dementia care and global investment in dementia research, we’re calling for all political parties to commit to tripling research investment and ring-fencing £100m a year for health and social care research.

The rising cost of dementia care

A new report commissioned by Alzheimer’s Society has found the cost of social care for people with dementia will nearly treble over the next two decades. 

  • There are an estimated 885,000 people living with dementia in the UK in 2019. This number will rise to 1.6 million people by 2040.
  • The total cost of dementia to the UK economy, including costs to the NHS, paid social care and unpaid care, is estimated at £34.7bn in 2019 and will rise further to £94.1bn by 2040
  • Social care costs will rise most steeply, from £15.7bn in 2019 to an estimated £45.4 billion by 2040. 

These predictions are based on the Modelling Outcome and Cost Impacts of Interventions for Dementia (MODEM) study from the London School of Economics. They found the number of people living with severe dementia will more than double by 2040. This is likely to increase the number of people with dementia living in care homes and drive up the cost of social care.

Increased research investment could buck this trend

These bleak predictions assume no major research breakthroughs between now and 2040. If we discover a new treatment that can slow or stop the progression of dementia, then the projected number of people living with severe dementia will be lower. 

Latest estimates show that up to a third of dementia cases could be preventable.

If we can develop and roll out an effective dementia risk reduction programme then the projections of those living with dementia by 2040 could also be reduced.

Research can bring down the overall health and social care costs of dementia by finding interventions that can help people to manage their condition better. Programmes that improve long term outcomes can reduce future demand on other health and social care services, sometimes providing overall cost savings for the system. 

But investment in dementia research is still far too low

Our Head of Research James Pickett has published an analysis of global dementia research investment in The Lancet.

Since the G8 summit on dementia in 2013, investment by the (now) G7 governments has more than doubled.

This has been driven strongly by increases from the US and to a lesser extent the UK, with falling investment in other nations. 

G7 dementia research investment

Despite positive increases in UK funding, dementia research is still dwarfed by investment in other health conditions.

Latest figures show the UK government invests around £85m in dementia research per year, which reflects about 0.25 per cent of the cost of dementia to the UK. In comparison, they invest about £270m per year or 1.5 per cent of the cost of cancer into cancer research. 

In our general election manifesto, we’re calling on all political parties to commit to tripling the investment in dementia research to £250m a year by 2025.

This would close the funding gap with cancer and start enabling breakthroughs in drug treatments and care interventions. 

Health and social care research

Globally only five per cent of all dementia research addresses health and social care challenges. This research shouldn’t be considered less important as it can make a tremendous difference to people’s lives.

We’re calling for £100m of government investment to be ring-fenced for research into prevention, diagnosis, intervention and care to enable a high quality, effective dementia care pathway that changes lives.

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