The impact of dementia is being felt disproportionately by women, according to a new report published by Alzheimer's Research UK, the UK's leading dementia research charity. The report, Women and Dementia: A Marginalised Majority, reveals that not only has dementia become the leading cause of death among women, but that women are more likely to become carers of people with dementia. The findings, which are due to be published on 8 March at the Women of the World Festival in London, underline an urgent need to intensify research efforts to treat and prevent dementia.
Currently 850,000 people are living with dementia across the UK. The condition, which is caused by brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, results in distressing symptoms including memory loss, confusion and personality changes, which get worse over time.
Alzheimer's Research UK's report highlights the huge toll of dementia on women in the UK, showing:
- Over 500,000 people with dementia - 61% - are women
- Women in their 60s are almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer
- Dementia is the leading cause of death for women in the UK, accounting for 12% of women's deaths in 2013
- Between 60 and 70% of all unpaid dementia carers are women, and women are more than twice as likely to provide intensive, 24-hour care than men
- Female carers report feeling less supported than their male counterparts
The report also highlights the role women are playing in the fight against dementia, and showcases the work of several female scientists whose innovative work is helping defeat the condition. But studies show that female scientific talent is not being fully harnessed, with women more likely to leave science early in their careers.
Hilary Evans, Director of External Affairs at Alzheimer's Research UK, the UK's leading dementia research charity, said:
"Dementia has a devastating impact on all those whose lives it touches, but it's a 'triple whammy' for women: more women are dying of dementia, more women are having to bear the burden of care and more women are leaving science. The experiences of these women underline the urgent need to tackle the diseases that cause this life-shattering condition. In recent decades we've seen increased investment in areas like cancer have a real impact, and we need to emulate that success for dementia. Only through research can we find ways to treat and prevent dementia, and transform the lives of the hundreds of thousands affected."