Global dementia costs hit £388bn

Social care, unpaid care and medical costs total more than 1% of GDP and are likely to rise by 85% by 2030, report says

The global cost of dementia this year will be £388bn – more than 1% of GDP – and governments are unprepared to meet the challenge, according to a report released today.

The cost of social care, unpaid care by relatives and the medical bills for treating dementia was calculated in the World Alzheimer’s Report 2010. Experts from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and King’s College London examined the cost of dementia care and found that, if it was a country, it would be the world’s 18th biggest economy.

If it was a company, it would be the world’s biggest by annual revenue, higher than Wal-Mart (£265.6bn) and Exxon Mobil (£200bn).

Campaigners have already warned that the costs of caring for people with dementia are on the rise, mostly due to people living longer. The number of people with dementia, currently 35.6 million, will almost double by 2030 to 65.7 million, and more than triple by 2050, when it is estimated there will be 115.4 million people with the disease.

The study said the costs will rise even faster than the prevalence of dementia – there could be an 85% increase in worldwide costs by 2030. In the UK, the Alzheimer’s Society estimated dementia currently costs the country £20bn a year.

The report was issued to coincide with World Alzheimer’s Day and was commissioned by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI).

Dr Daisy Acosta, chair of ADI, said: “This is a wake-up call that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are the single most significant health and social crisis of the 21st century. World governments are woefully unprepared for the social and economic disruptions this disease will cause.”

Professor Martin Prince, from the institute of psychiatry at King’s College London, co-authored the report. He said: “The care of people with dementia is not just a health issue – it is a massive social issue. This is particularly true in low- and middle-income countries which lack adequate systems of formal care. Governments must show greater leadership, working with all stakeholders, to drive solutions to the long-term care issue.”

The study recommends that all governments formulate long-term plans for dealing with dementia, and praises work already being done in France, Australia and England.

It said research into the disease must also be properly funded – currently it lags far behind other conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Ruth Sutherland, interim chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said the shocking statistics in the report show the global dementia crisis cannot be ignored.

“These sky-high figures represent not only a huge economic burden but also reflect the immeasurable impact dementia has on the lives of millions of people across the world.

“There are 750,000 people living with dementia in the UK and this number is set to reach a million within a generation.

“If we are to transform lives and reduce costs, we need to act now. The government must lead the way in ensuring national dementia strategies are fully implemented and dementia research is given the funding it so desperately needs.”

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