Rate of dementia on the decline—but beware of growing numbers

April 17, 2018 by Morgan Sherburne, University of Michigan
Credit: University of Michigan

The good news? The rate of older Americans with dementia is on the decline.

The bad news? The number of Americans 85 and older will roughly double in the next 20 years, so even with a decline in the rate of among , the number of people with dementia will likely increase substantially, says Robert Schoeni, a professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and Department of Economics.

The impact on both those with dementia and the people who care for them is significant. More than 45 million people worldwide have dementia. Its economic impact, including unpaid care provided by families, is estimated to be about $800 billion annually, Schoeni says.

Schoeni and colleagues Vicki Freedman and Ken Langa have led a special supplement to the Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences that examines trends in dementia across the United States. The nine studies provide new evidence on whether dementia trends have been more favorable, and reasons for those trends.

"The overall favorable seems to be linked to higher education levels among today's older Americans," said Freedman, a research professor of the U-M Institute for Social Research. "But substantial gaps remain between more and less educated groups."

The supplement stems from a May 2017 workshop funded by the National Institute on Aging that aimed to broaden the understanding of dementia trends, including a study that examines how education levels influence years expected to be lived with dementia.

Other studies look at the impact of cardiovascular disease on dementia. Reducing cardiovascular diseases and other chronic diseases is critical for the health of individuals and families, but because such advantages allow people to live to older ages when dementia is more common, the number of dementia cases may not decrease.

"By far the most powerful way to lower both the proportion and number of people with dementia is to develop prevention strategies and treatments that would directly delay the onset of dementia," said Langa, a research professor of the U-M Institute for Social Research and Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, professor of internal medicine and research scientist at the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Center for Clinical Management Research.

Together, the studies generated a number of cross-cutting themes. In addition to the overall decline in dementia prevalence, the supplement's studies show the following:

  • Some groups of older adults in the U.S. are living fewer years with dementia.
  • Racial and socioeconomic disparities in dementia are large and not diminishing.
  • Rising levels of education partially account for the decline of dementia prevalence, but more research is needed to understand the role cardiovascular risk factors in trends of dementia.
  • Reducing the incidence of diabetes and hypertension in midlife will increase the future number of cases of dementia because people will live longer. Therefore, postponing the onset of dementia directly is the most effective way to further reduce the size of the population living with dementia.

Explore further: Americans with a college education live longer without dementia and Alzheimer's

More information: Trends in the Prevalence and Incidence of Dementia: Causes, Disparities, and Projections for the Future. academic.oup.com/psychsocgeron … ogy/issue/73/suppl_1

Related Stories

Americans with a college education live longer without dementia and Alzheimer's

April 16, 2018
Education gives people an edge in their later years, helping them to keep dementia at bay and their memories intact, a new USC-led study has found.

Controlling blood pressure even when older can prevent dementia in African Americans

April 9, 2018
Controlling blood pressure with any of the commonly prescribed antihypertensive medications can prevent dementia in older African-Americans with hypertension according to a new study from Regenstrief Institute researchers.

Dementia increases the risk of 30-day readmission to the hospital after discharge

February 23, 2018
About 25 percent of older adults admitted to hospitals have dementia and are at increased risk for serious problems like in-hospital falls and delirium (the medical term for an abrupt, rapid change in mental function). As ...

Older adults who have slower walking speeds may have increased risk for dementia

March 23, 2018
As of 2015, nearly 47 million people around the world had dementia, a memory problem significant enough to affect your ability to carry out your usual tasks. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, but other ...

Helping prevent falls in older adults with dementia

March 23, 2018
Annually, about one-third of all American adults aged 65 or older experience a fall. Falls are a major cause of medical problems, especially among those who have dementia. In fact, twice the number of older adults with dementia ...

Incidence of dementia in primary care increased in the Netherlands over 23 years

March 7, 2017
The incidence of registered dementia cases has increased slightly over a 23-year period (1992 to 2014) in the Netherlands, according to a study published by Emma van Bussel and colleagues from the Academic Medical Center ...

Recommended for you

Neurons with good housekeeping are protected from Alzheimer's

December 17, 2018
Some neurons in the brain protect themselves from Alzheimer's with a cellular cleaning system that sweeps away toxic proteins associated with the disease, according to a new study from Columbia University and the University ...

Growing a brain: Two-step control mechanism identified in mouse stem cells

December 17, 2018
Scientists have identified two distinct control mechanisms in the developmental transition of undifferentiated stem cells into healthy brain cells. This fundamental research using mice may inform regenerative medicine treatments ...

Does diabetes damage brain health?

December 14, 2018
(HealthDay)—Diabetes has been tied to a number of complications such as kidney disease, but new research has found that older people with type 2 diabetes can also have more difficulties with thinking and memory.

Amyloid pathology transmission in lab mice and historic medical treatments

December 13, 2018
A UCL-led study has confirmed that some vials of a hormone used in discontinued medical treatments contained seeds of a protein implicated in Alzheimer's disease, and are able to seed amyloid pathology in mice.

Study links slowed brainwaves to early signs of dementia

December 13, 2018
To turn back the clock on Alzheimer's disease, many researchers are seeking ways to effectively diagnose the neurodegenerative disorder earlier.

New discoveries predict ability to forecast dementia from single molecule

December 11, 2018
Scientists who recently identified the molecular start of Alzheimer's disease have used that finding to determine that it should be possible to forecast which type of dementia will develop over time—a form of personalized ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.