Rate of new cases of dementia in the UK falls over two decades, research shows

The UK has seen a 20% fall in the incidence of dementia over the past two decades, according to new research published today (Tuesday 19 April) by the University of Cambridge in Nature Communications.

The study suggests that the change has been seen mainly in men, but there are still approximately 210,000 new cases of dementia per year in the UK.

As part of the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (CFAS), researchers at the University of Cambridge, Newcastle University, Nottingham University and the University of East Anglia interviewed a baseline of 7,500 people in three regions of the UK (Cambridgeshire, Newcastle and Nottingham) and repeated interviews after two years to estimate incidence. This was repeated 20 years later in a new group of 7,500 people from the same localities aged 65 and over.

Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society said:

'It’s encouraging to see research showing that the rate of new cases of people with dementia in the UK has fallen, indicating that lifestyle factors, such as better heart health, are helping to reduce the risk of dementia. However, people are living for longer and with other risk factors such as diabetes and obesity on the rise, there will still be over 200,000 new cases of dementia each year. That’s still an enormous number of people who require better information and health and social care support.

'The study indicates two thirds of new cases of dementia will be in women - this is in part due to the fact that women live longer, but it also appears that women are at a higher risk of developing dementia. Over the past 20 years the most significant change appears to have been a reduction in the rates of dementia amongst men.

'Since this study began, there have substantial improvements in our understanding of dementia and many people are now being diagnosed at an earlier stage of the condition. It’s possible, therefore, that not all of these people would be identified using the methods of this study, leading to an underestimate of people with dementia.'