Sorting by


Obesity could see number of dementia patients in UK double by 2040

The number of people living with dementia in England and Wales is set to double to 1.7 million in just 17 years – half a million more than previously forecast, scientists have found.

Scientists predict that dementia cases will be up to 42 per cent higher in 2040 than current estimates show and they believe that rising obesity rates could be largely to blame for the greater-than-expected forecast – although this has yet to be confirmed.

The proportion of UK adults who are overweight or obese increased from 52.9 per cent in 1993 to 64.3 per cent in 2022, according to the NHS.

Meanwhile, obesity has been linked to dementia in a number of studies, including a 2020 study by University College London published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

A new analysis by University College London has determined that the percentage of people developing dementia in older age is increasing – whereas it had previously been thought to be falling, meaning previous forecasts had underestimated future cases.

The combination of an ageing population – and a higher percentage of older people developing dementia – means that cases are now expected to soar in the next two decades, by even more than expected.

Lead researcher Yuntao Chen, of University College London, described the findings as “shocking”.

“We are very worried about our finding that dementia cases are likely to be considerably larger. The burden on health and social care might be huge,” he told i.

“Not only will this have a devastating effect on the lives of those involved but it will also put a considerably larger burden on health and social care than current forecasts predict.

“We hypothesise that the obesity epidemic – the prevalence of adult obesity rose rapidly from 1975 to 2000 – might have contributed to increasing dementia incidence in recent cohorts of older people.

“This is the first study showing that dementia incidence rate is not going down anymore and consequently we may underestimate future dementia cases.”

Hilary Evans, chief executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK, which wasn’t involved in the study, said: “This news highlights the enormous threat dementia poses, for both the public and for our already overstretched health and care workforce.

“As these figures show, unless urgent action is taken, dementia is set to place a huge and increasing burden on our healthcare system, and to blight millions of futures.”

Previous studies, based on data up to 2010, showed that the proportion of older people who got dementia had decreased by 28.8 per cent between 2002 and 2008.

Based on this trend, the number of people living with dementia was previously predicted to increase by 57 per cent from 0.77 million in 2016 to 1.2 million in 2040 as a result of the ageing population – according to a study in the BMJ that was widely seen as the key estimate.

But the new research, published in the journal The Lancet Public Health, indicates that the proportion of people getting dementia started to increase again in England and Wales after 2008 – rising by 25.2 per cent between 2008 and 2016.

As a result, the estimate has been recalculated and the researchers say that this figure could be as high as 1.7 million.

The researchers examined nine waves of data from people over the age of 50 and living in private households in England between 2002 and 2019, from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). They also found that that disparities in the rate of dementia incidence were increasing between education groups

James White, Alzheimer’s Society’s head of national influencing, said: “Statistics from this Lancet Public Health study are a stark reminder that, without action, the individual and economic devastation caused by dementia shows no sign of stopping.”

Professor Dag Aarsland, of King’s College London, said: “Despite recent positive findings suggesting that the incidence of new dementia was declining, this well-designed study shows that this initial decline has reversed and the incidence is again increasing.

“These findings should be a call to society and researchers to intensify the work to find methods to prevent dementia. This is possible but requires a huge increased effort,” he said.

The scientists behind the new UCL study said they did not include any data on obesity levels in their study or factor in the potential of weight loss drugs such as Wegovy to reduce obesity levels. Instead, they based their analysis on trends in dementia numbers and rates within the UK population in recent years.

Although weight loss drugs show early promise it is not yet clear how effective they will be in the longer term and whether they will make a substantial difference to obesity levels in the UK.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) advises Wegovy should only be available to around 35,000 people through specialist weight management services, which are largely hospital based – although the Government is exploring how these drugs can be made available to more people by expanding specialist weight management services outside of hospital settings. 

By contrast, well over 850,000 people are forecast to develop dementia in England and Wales by 2040. This is based on the fact that the total number of people with dementia is set to increase by 850,000 during that period, while tens of thousands of people who now have dementia will die between now and then – so the number of new cases will be considerably higher than 850,000.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We want every person with dementia to receive high quality, compassionate care, regardless of age, gender, or background, which is why the NHS is committed to improving diagnosis rates, access to new treatments through increased funding, working together and making use of the latest technology.

“We are providing £160m a year by 2024/25 for dementia research to accelerate the development of the latest treatments and technology and our Major Conditions Strategy recognises not only the importance of tackling this disease but will set out the standards patients should expect at all stages of dementia care.

“Our £570m Market Sustainability and Improvement Fund (MSIF) Workforce Fund will increase adult social care capacity, improve market sustainability and enable local authorities to make tangible improvements to adult social care services.”

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button