A new analysis suggests that the number of people worldwide living with dementia is set to treble by 2050. Alzheimer’s Disease International, a federation of Alzheimer associations, reveals their findings in a policy briefing on the global impact of dementia ahead of the first G8 Dementia Summit set to take place in the UK on December 11th.

One of the summit’s goals is to agree a new international approach to dementia research and policy.

The briefing reports a “staggering” 17% increase in the number of people living with dementia since the Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) estimate in the 2009 World Alzheimer Report.

ADI estimates the global number of people living with dementia today is 44 million. The federation suggests this will climb to 76 million by 2030 and 135 million by 2050.

The G8 briefing paper says the current and future burden of dementia has been underestimated, particularly in East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. It suggests there will soon be a shift in the distribution of dementia from richer to poorer countries.

By 2050, over two-thirds (71%) of people with dementia will be living in low- and middle-income countries, says the ADI paper.

At the forthcoming summit, ADI intends to emphasize the need for national dementia strategies that push for early diagnosis and interventions.

The global group says there is an urgent need for a global action plan that brings together governments, industry and non-profit organizations to tackle the dementia epidemic.

They will also emphasize that while funding for dementia research is crucial, there is an equally important need for good quality care and support for caregivers, suggesting that priority also needs to be given to policymaking, development of health and social care services, and health systems.

Other highlights from the ADI’s G8 brief include:

  • The global cost of dementia is currently $604 billion a year (2010 estimate). At the very least, this will increase in line with numbers affected.
  • Improvements in public health could avert 10% of dementia cases – for example by targeting smoking, obesity, underactivity, high blood pressure and diabetes, and improving education.
  • Investing into search for a cure must be balanced by investment into finding and accessing the best evidence-based care.
  • The HIV epidemic has taught us many lessons about implementing global trials and how to balance research with developing care systems, diagnostic technologies and drug therapies in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Currently, only 13 out of 193 World Health Organization (WHO) countries have national dementia plans.

ADI Executive Director Marc Wortmann says:

At the eve of the G8 Dementia Summit in London, UK, it is not just the G8 countries, but all nations, that must commit to a sustained increase in dementia research.”

Meanwhile, researchers in Canada recently described how exercise benefits dementia patients by improving their cognitive functioning and their ability to perform daily activities.