Within 40 years, more than 800,000 Australians — twice as many as now — will be living with dementia, unless a cure is found, according to a new government-sponsored report.
Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia.
A new study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a government agency, has forecast that 1.1 million Australians will live with dementia by 2058, unless major new treatments are discovered.
Dementia is a broad term for a number of conditions that impair the functions of the brain.
In 2019, $2.1 billion was spent in Australia on residential and community-based services, and hospital care for dementia patients, two-thirds of whom are women.
The release of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study has coincided with a new awareness campaign by Dementia Australia, a non-profit organization.
Its chief executive, Maree McCabe, says exercise and a sensible diet can offer protection against several types of dementia.
“The main type is Alzheimer’s disease but there are about 100 different types and about 60% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease. But there’s types such as frontotemporal dementia, dementia with lewy bodies, vascular dementia, just to name a few. We can definitely reduce our risk of developing dementia by ensuring that we eat well, that we exercise our body and our brain,” McCabe said.
The World Health Organization has said there are currently more than 55 million people living with dementia globally.
Almost 10 million new cases are diagnosed every year. About a quarter of those are detected in China, the world’s most populous country.
It is estimated that 10 million people currently suffer from the degenerative brain disorder in China. As its population ages, that number is forecast to rise to 40 million by 2050, according to a study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The study warned that the annual economic costs to China from dementia could reach $1 trillion in medical expenses and lost productivity as caregivers leave the workforce.
Dementia support groups warn that worldwide, both patients and caregivers face discrimination because of a lack of understanding about the disease that currently has no cure.