The world needs to brace itself for an explosion in the number of people living with dementia, a new report claims.
Campaigners are calling on the World Health Organisation (WHO) and governments around the globe to make tackling dementia a healthcare priority after the report forecast the number of people with the condition will treble by the middle of the century.
The Alzheimer Disease International research – published ahead of next week’s G8 summit on dementia in London – shows an estimated 44 million people now have dementia.
The report predicts 76 million will be living with dementia in 2030, with the number rising to 115 million by 2050.
Researchers forecast the number of cases in western Europe will jump from 7.8 million today to 16 million by mid-century.
The report also predicts that there will be a big increase in the number of dementia cases in low and middle-income countries.
At the moment an estimated 38% of people with dementia live in high income countries, but by 2050 researchers say the proportion will have shrunk to 29% with the rest in low and middle-income nations.
Alzheimer Disease International’s executive director, Marc Wortmann, said there was a ‘global epidemic’ that was ‘only getting worse’ with the number of older people rising dramatically.
He added: ‘It’s vital that the World Health Organisation makes dementia a priority, so the world is ready to face this condition.’
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said dementia was quickly becoming ‘the biggest health and social challenge of this generation’.
He said the G8 meeting was throwing up a ‘once-in-a-generation chance to conquer’ dementia, adding that the talk must be followed by ‘meaningful action’.
Mr Hughes added: ‘We must tackle dementia now, for those currently living with the condition across the world and for those millions who will develop dementia in the future.
‘Lack of funding means dementia research is falling behind other conditions.’
In 2007 a report by the Alzheimer’s Society showed that some 800,000 people in the UK had dementia, a number that it predicted would leap to 1.7 million by the middle of this century.