DEMENTIA cases are set to soar by nearly two thirds within the next 25 years, a major new study predicts.
It forecasts that more than 1.2million people will be living with dementia in England and Wales by 2040.
The scale of the problem raises further concern over the ability of the NHS and social care system to cope.
Charities said the research should be a ‘wake-up call’ for ministers, warning social care in Britain is ‘on its knees’ with no solution in sight. Dementia is already costing the UK £23billion a year.
In the latest research, teams at University College London and the University of Liverpool calculated that if Britain’s life expectancy and population size remained stable, the number of dementia cases would actually fall by 2.7 per cent a year.
The authors, writing in the British Medical Journal, said because we are living healthier lives the number of people newly diagnosed with dementia is falling. However, because people are living longer, the overall number of those living with the condition will continue to rise.
Study leader Dr Sara Ahmadi-Abhari, of University College London, said: ‘The risk of developing dementia at any given age is going down over time, shifting dementia to later years in life. This decline is mainly because of improvements in health care and adopting healthier lifestyles.
‘Our estimate of 1.2million people with dementia by 2040 is based on the assumption that the decline in risk of developing dementia continues to the future. If public health efforts fail and the risk of developing dementia does not continue to decline, the growth in numbers of people living with dementia will be much larger, reaching 1.9million by 2040.’
Her team used data from 18,000 men and women, tracking the health of those aged 50 and over. From 2002 to 2013, people were selected at random and tested for memory, verbal fluency and numeracy function, and ability to look after themselves.
Dementia was then identified by these assessments, together with interviews with carers, or through official NHS diagnosis.
The researchers used this data to estimate that there were about 767,000 people with dementia in England and Wales in 2016. And they calculate this figure will rise to 872,000 in 2020, nearly 1.1million in 2030 and just over 1.2million by 2040.
Professor Eric Brunner of UCL, senior investigator of the project, said: ‘Our results have significant policy implications in terms of care needs and public spending. They act as a benchmark to measure the impact of possible dementia prevention initiatives.’
Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘With an ageing population and no way to cure, prevent or slow down the condition, dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer. These latest estimates are yet another wake-up call that the current social care system, already on its knees from decades of under-funding, needs urgent attention from the Government.
‘Researchers must unite to achieve breakthroughs in prevention, treatment and care before dementia becomes an even larger health and social care crisis.’
© Daily Mail