28 September 2010

Report reveals enormous global cost of Alzheimer's

by Kate Melville

Already costing 1 percent of global GDP and growing rapidly, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are the single most significant health and social crisis of the 21st century, warns a new multinational report. "This is a wake-up call," said Dr Daisy Acosta, Chairman of Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI, the non-profit international federation of 73 Alzheimer associations around the world). "World governments are woefully unprepared for the social and economic disruptions this disease will cause."

The report, "Global Economic Impact of Dementia," finds that Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are exacting a massive toll on the global economy, with the problem set to accelerate in coming years. Report authors Professor Anders Wimo of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; and Professor Martin Prince, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London; say that the number of people with dementia will double by 2030, and more than triple by 2050.

Perhaps more worrying, the costs of caring for people with dementia are likely to rise even faster than the prevalence - especially in the developing world, as more formal social care systems emerge, and rising incomes lead to higher opportunity costs.

"The scale of this crisis cries out for global action," said ADI's Marc Wortmann. "History shows that major diseases can be made manageable - and even preventable - with sufficient global awareness and the political will to make substantial investments in research and care options."

The report uses improved data on low and middle-income countries from the 10/66 Dementia Research Group studies in Latin America, India and China and representative population-based samples from developing countries to better quantify the cost of informal care systems that have previously been excluded from impact estimates.

Key recommendations the authors make include:

"The care of people with dementia is not just a health issue - it is a massive social issue," said report co-author Martin Prince. "This is particularly true in low and middle income countries which lack adequate systems of formal care."

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Source: King's College London