Number of people with dementia in Europe to almost double by 2050

Author: Caroline White

The number of people with dementia in Europe is set to almost double by 2050, on the basis of current trends across the continent, concludes a report* from Alzheimer Europe.

The report, which draws on recent studies and population trends data, charts changes in the prevalence of the disease for 37 countries. It shows that nearly 10 million people were living with dementia in 2018, a figure that is projected to rise to just under 19 million by 2050─equivalent to 3% of the total population of Europe.

In the UK alone, thanks to population growth, particularly among the over 65s, the number of people with dementia is set to increase from more than a million in 2018 to just under two million by 2050, representing nearly 2.7% of the entire population.

The report emphasises that these figures will prove challenging for governments across the continent in terms of ensuring that their health and social care systems can cope and will be able to provide high-quality care and support, from diagnosis through to end-of-life care.

“Additionally, societies must change to remove the stigma associated with dementia and must adapt, to ensure that people with the condition can live within them for as long as possible,” it says.

And it’s time to prioritise dementia research, it insists. “Research agendas must, as a matter of priority, give dementia the status it deserves, prioritising basic research which helps to understand the condition better, drug development to create disease modifying treatments and demographic research to better understand the populations affected by dementia, allowing for better system responses to the condition,” it says.

The charity Alzheimer’s Research UK echoes these sentiments, pointing out that one of the Conservative Party’s 2019 election pledges was to double dementia research funding.

Samantha Benham-Hermetz, the charity’s director of policy and public affairs, said: “These startling figures emphasise the looming global health crisis of dementia, but sadly they come as no surprise. If we are unable to find ways to prevent or treat the diseases that cause dementia, one in three people born today will develop dementia in their lifetimes.

“We must act now, and invest more than ever before in dementia research, to stop these projections from becoming a reality.”

Promising discoveries were being made, she added, “but these statistics show that we need more progress, faster,” she said.

“It is essential that the government makes dementia a priority and at a minimum, doubles its annual investment in research – as promised by the Conservatives during the 2019 election,” she urged.

“But we cannot find life-changing treatments for dementia alone, this must be a global effort. Now that the UK has formally left the EU, it’s vital that cross-border research across Europe continues to receive vital support.

“With further investment and collaboration from government, charity and industry, this commitment will make possible the breakthroughs that could transform lives,” she insisted.

*Dementia in Europe Yearbook 2019: Estimating the prevalence of dementia in Europe. Alzheimer Europe, 2020.