Ten more people with dementia every hour in Australasia

Ten people every hour are being diagnosed with dementia in Australia and New Zealand, according to the World Alzheimer Report 2015 released today by Alzheimer’s Disease International.

The report, which updates estimates of the global prevalence, incidence and costs of dementia based on systematic reviews, says a further 85,081 Australian and New Zealanders aged over 60 will be found to have dementia in 2015. That's about 233 a day or 9.7 an hour.

The total number of people living with dementia in the two countries (listed as Australasia in the report) is estimated to be 390,000 growing to 620,000 in 2030 (59 per cent rise) and 1.02 million by 2050 (163 per cent rise from 2015).

Worldwide, the report puts the annual number of new cases of dementia in 2015 at 9.9 million – one new case every 3.2 seconds – almost 30 per cent higher than estimated for 2010.

And the total number of people across the globe living with dementia is estimated to be 46.8 million, a figure expected to double every 20 years, reaching 74.7 million in 2030 and 131.5 million in 2050.

While steep growth in the number of people with dementia is expected in developed countries in the next 35 years, the growth rate will be much higher in low income nations - 116 per cent growth between 2015 and 2050 in high income nations compared with 264 per cent in low income nations.

Meanwhile the report highlights the economic impact on the community of the increasing prevalence of dementia.

It estimates that the annual cost per person with dementia in Australia and New Zealand in 2015 is US$36,404, up 12.5 per cent from 2010. And the total dementia related ‘burden of disease’ costs were up 39.6 per cent to US$14.1 billion from US$10.1 billion in 2010.

Socials sector carries majority of disease burden

The way dementia costs are directed in Australasia is heavily weighted towards the social sector (aged care) when compared to the global figures.

In Australasia, the direct social sector cost was US$7.1 billion representing 50.3 per cent of overall costs with US$6b (42.8 per cent) going to informal care and just US$1 billion (6.9 per cent) taken up by direct medical costs. This compares with the global breakdown of direct social sector cost of US$327.9b (40.1 per cent), informal care costs of US$330.8b (40.4 per cent) and direct medical costs of US$159.2b (19.5 per cent).

These figures could point to the increased dementia care role played by Australia and New Zealand’s highly developed aged care sector and the comparatively fewer social care options in other, particularly low income nations, where the overwhelming majority of people with dementia are cared for at home.

Dementia prevalence rises rapidly with age

The prevalence of dementia increases exponentially with age, doubling every 6.9 years in Australasia compared to just 5.5 years in North America and 10.6 years in South East Asia.

Across the world, the report finds that the incidence of dementia doubles with every 6.3 year increase in age, from 3.9 per 1000 person-years at age 60-64 to 104.8 per 1000 person-years at age 90+.

Some questions over evidence base for estimates

While there is no doubt about the scientific rigour of the report, it is only as good as the research base it draws from. Dementia prevalence data for Australasia was drawn from just four studies which was regarded as ‘reasonable’ evidence based coverage.

This compared with East Asia (89 studies), Western Europe (71 studies), Asia Pacific High Income (30 studies), North America (16 studies), South Asia (14 studies), Southeast Asia (6 studies). Only one of Australasia’s studies was conducted after 2000 and none after 2010. The total number of studies the report is based on is 247, with 20 of these occurring from 2010.

This would indicate that the greater benefit of the report is in terms of global understanding and in those areas with higher levels of research.

It also points to the need for increased research into the prevalence and incidence of dementia in the Australian region.

Another caveat on the figures, according to the reports authors, is that “almost all current projections of the coming dementia epidemic assume that age- and gender-specific prevalence of dementia will not vary over time, and that population ageing alone drives the projected increases. In reality, future prevalence could be affected by changing incidence and disease duration.”

The report also does not include data on dementia in people aged under 60: “Younger onset dementia is, thankfully, a rare condition, accounting according to previous estimates, for some 2-8 per cent of all cases. The proportion may well be higher in countries in Southern Africa with a high seroprevalence of HIV infection. We did not find any new evidence to revise our previous estimates in this area, and more research is required.”

Director of HammondCare's Dementia Centre, Associate Professor Colm Cunningham is available for comment on the World Alzheimer Report 2015 and dementia-related issues. Please email Head of Public Affairs, Peter Hallett, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

World Alzheimer Report