Cases to reach 153 million in 2050, up from 57 million in 2019
Mounting burden raises the stakes for policy, therapies
By Irina Anghel 6 January 2022, 23:30 UTC
Dementia will ravage the minds of 153 million people globally in 2050, about three times more than in 2019, according to a study that shows the rising stakes for public-health policy along with successful therapies from drugmakers.
The tripling of cases of cognitive illnesses that include memory-robbing Alzheimer’s disease is tied to national trends in risk factors including obesity, diabetes, low education and smoking, according to the Global Burden of Disease study. Published Thursday in the Lancet Public Health journal, the analysis looked at 195 of the world’s countries and territories.
Government and public-health officials are looking to design targeted policy to tackle the risk of debilitating dementia, the seventh leading cause of death worldwide. Drugmakers are also trying to design therapies to take on the Alzheimer’s threat, such as Biogen Inc.’s Aduhelm, which has seen just minimal uptake since its approval in June.
“Even modest advances in preventing dementia or delaying its progression would pay remarkable dividends,” said lead study author Emma Nichols of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle. “To have the greatest impact, we need to reduce exposure to the leading risk factors in each country.”
World Dementia Cases Could Triple by 2050
Estimated case increases show faster growth in low- and middle-income economies
Source: Global Burden of Disease study
Note: Data show change in cases between 2019 and 2050
Sought by numerous companies, Alzheimer’s drugs have so far shown limited effectiveness in countering dementia. Biogen’s Aduhelm was approved on the basis of its ability to remove a disease-linked protein from the brain; its impact on thinking still isn’t clear.
The researchers found improved access to education could cut the increase in dementia patients by 6.2 million by 2050. However, that would be more than offset by an estimated 7 million extra cases tied to trends in obesity, high blood sugar and smoking.
North Africa, the Middle East and eastern sub-Saharan Africa are forecast to see the biggest surge in dementia, an estimated four-fold increase. In contrast, the study saw lower increases in wealthier countries in the Asia-Pacific region and western Europe. More from Djokovic December Covid Case Used for Exemption, Lawyers Say U.S. Cases Double; Europe Targets Anti-Vaxxers: Virus Update Vaccine Skeptics Slammed Across Europe as Omicron Rages Cyprus Finds Covid-19 Infections That Combine Delta and Omicron
Women living with dementia will continue to outnumber their male counterparts in 2050, the study found, due to a combination of genetic risk factors and longer life expectancy, as the risk of dementia rises with age.
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