Number of People With Dementia is Going Down

  • Study suggests people with dementia in the UK is going down

    The Lancet, a leading general medical journal and specialty journals in Oncology, Neurology and Infectious Diseases has published a report suggesting older people's risk of dementia is now reduced.

    New estimates from the first ever study show evidence on how dementia prevalence has changed in the UK over time and suggest that the proportion of people with dementia has fallen. 

    Between 1989 and 1994, 7635 people aged 65 years or older were interviewed by Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies (Study was titled CFAS I). The study focusses on Cambridgeshire, Newcastle, and Nottingham. From this study, experts predicted 8.3% of over 65 year olds would have dementia in 2011

    Between 2008 and 2011, new fieldwork was done in the same three areas for the CFAS II study which compares dementia rates in people born two decades apart. This study shows that the prevalence is lower at 6·5%, rather than the 8.3% predicted from CFAS I.

    The study has made the following statement:

    The prevalence of dementia in the population might be subject to change. Factors that might increase prevalence include: rising prevalence of risk factors, such as physical inactivity, obesity, and diabetes; increasing numbers of individuals living beyond 80 years with a shift in distribution of age at death; persistent inequalities in health across the lifecourse; and increased survival after stroke and with heart disease.

    By contrast, factors that might decrease prevalence include successful primary prevention of heart disease, accounting for half the substantial decrease in vascular mortality, and increased early life education, which is associated with reduced risk of dementia.

    The results from this study do provide further evidence that a cohort effect exists in dementia prevalence. Later-born populations have a lower risk of prevalent dementia than those born earlier in the past century.

    Researchers say this could be down to improving public health. Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer's Society UK has said the following:

    One interpretation of the findings is that general health and health management has improved to the extent that it has helped reduce dementia risk, which is encouraging news for us all.

    Dementia remains the biggest health and social care challenge facing the UK. Today's research doesn't mean we can take our eye off the ball. With no cure, few effective treatments and an economic impact dwarfing that of cancer and heart disease, more research is needed to identify the causes of dementia and how to reduce people's risk.

    The research undertaken by CFAS is funded by The Medical Research Council.

    The full report is available here.

    You can also read our blog on 'Can You Prevent Dementia By Keeping Your Brain Active' for more information on the current research about dementia.

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