21 September 2010. The autumnal equinox, when the whole world gets equal time in the sunlight, might be an appropriate time to take a global view of Alzheimer disease. Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) released its World Alzheimer Report 2010 today.
Unfortunately, the document, which focuses on the economic burden of dementia, reflects a picture that is anything but bright, or equal. The global annual cost of caring for dementia patients now adds up to a hefty $604 billion, according to report authors Anders Wimo, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, and Martin Prince, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, U.K. Over the next 20 years that cost will grow by 85 percent, with the biggest increases occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Representing 1.0 percent of the world’s gross domestic product—and more than most national GDPs—the global cost of caring for dementia patients is already a substantial economic burden. “If dementia care were a country, it would be the world’s eighteenth largest economy, ranking between Turkey and Indonesia,” according to the authors.
Commissioned by ADI, the global umbrella organization for national Alzheimer’s Associations, the 2010 report follows a previous one on prevalence published the same time last year. The 2009 document counted 35 million cases of dementia and predicted 65 million by 2030 (see ARF related news story). This projected increase in prevalence partly explains the predicted rise in spending on dementia care, but on top of that, the 2010 report predicts that cost in low- and middle-income countries will grow faster as economies in those countries mature. Both this and last year’s executive summaries, detailed reports, and additional information are available for free download.
The 2010 report, which has gained some traction in the popular press, urges governments to invest now to avoid hardship later. “Only by investing now in research and cost-effective approaches to care can future societal costs be anticipated and managed,” according to the authors. The report was released to coincide with World Alzheimer’s Day, when organizations around the world raise dementia awareness and advocate for policy changes. In the U.S., participants in the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Ride, conceived by Bruce Lamb at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, delivered some 100,000 signatures to members of Congress in Washington, DC, today in support of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which would fund a national plan to tackle Alzheimer disease.—Tom Fagan.