Alzheimer's disease Add one more woe that's creating a rising financial burden for both individuals and countries: dementia. Its total worldwide costs for 2010 are estimated to be $604 billion, or around 1% of the world's GDP. And with the number of people afflicted by dementia expected to more than triple by 2050, the costs will soar, according to the World Alzheimer Report 2010 from Alzheimer's Disease International.

"This is a wake-up call that Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are the single most significant health and social crisis of the 21st century," says Dr. Daisy Acosta, chairman of the ADI. "World governments are woefully unprepared for the social and economic disruptions this disease will cause."

Dementia mostly affects older people and is a syndrome that can be caused by a number of progressive disorders that affect memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer's, which is the most common type of dementia, is incurable and fatal.

Who's Spending What on Alzheimer's

The report estimates that 35.6 million people worldwide are now living with dementia, which will increase to 65.7 million by 2030 and 115.4 million by 2050. Costs are estimated to jump by 85% by 2030, to over $1.1 trillion. Nearly two-thirds of dementia sufferers live in low- and middle-income countries, where the sharpest increases in numbers are set to occur.

In the U.S., 5.3 million people have Alzheimer's disease. It's the seventh-leading cause of death and costs as much as $172 billion annually, according to the recent report by the Alzheimer's Association. This amounts to about 28% of the world's cost (assuming similar calculations) despite the U.S. having only 15% of the patients. Clearly, the economic burden of dementia in the U.S. is already high, and the number of those afflicted is growing as the nation's population ages.

In general, about 70% of the costs occur in Western Europe and North America, with high-income countries spending 1.24% of GDP on dementia. Low-income countries accounted for just under 1% of total worldwide costs but 14% of the prevalence and spending of $868 per person. Middle-income countries accounted for 10% of the costs but 40% of the prevalence and spending of $3,109 to $6,827 per person. High-income countries accounted for 89% of the costs but 46% of the prevalence and spending of $32,865 per person.

Setback After Setback

The ADI calls on governments to make dementia a health priority. Perhaps most important, it wants governments, companies and organizations to increase funding for dementia research, including prevention, to a level more proportionate to the economic burden.

But Alzheimer's has proved to be a particularly tough nut to crack. One after another, pharmaceutical companies such as Eli Lilly (LLY), Pfizer (PFE) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) have been announcing research setbacks even as they agreed to share research data. Another blow came in May when the National Institutes of Health said none of the methods used in attempts to prevent, delay or reduce the severity of Alzheimer's disease have been proven to work.

With so little achieved so far, and with such disparity compared to other diseases when it comes to research spending given the economic burden, says co-author of the study, Martin Prince, "governments must show greater leadership, working with all stakeholders, to drive solutions to the long-term-care issue."

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The single most critical social issue of the 21st century? That doctor is either nuts or looking for more government grant money to buy a summer home in Maine - I suspect the latter.

September 22 2010 at 2:59 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

This kind of article really ticks me off. The Baby Boomers were born after WWII, we have been around for 60 + years. Everyone now starts acting like we just suddenly dropped out of thin air. You saw us coming, what did you think was going to happen as we aged, nothing? LOL

September 22 2010 at 12:03 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Hookers's comment
Brad Herriott

There seems to be some positive signs with Protandim and it's effects on several ailments. It's proven to reduce oxidative stress by 40-70%. Oxidative stress HAS been linked to many diseases, including alzheimers and other variations of dementia. Check out for more information.

September 21 2010 at 11:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mom and Dad

Lets have an Alzheimer's Telethon. Did I just say something? Where's my wife? I think I'm married. What's for dinner?

September 21 2010 at 10:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This subject is "crepy" You can't equate this health issue as an economic disaster without attaching some kind of economic "remedy".. These victims are our mothers and fathers who have watched out for us their entire lives and deserve more than to be equated with some kind of "well you're really costing us a lot in "depends" and assisted living help, so, we need a solution." Because just mentioning this is at a time when Medicare has been slashed and Obamacare is adding another 50 million people is not a conincidence.

September 21 2010 at 9:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Isnt this the real problem we are facing with our government?

September 21 2010 at 8:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

could it be "soft kill" food additives put in our food supply by the controlling corporations?

September 21 2010 at 8:43 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to K's comment

High Cost??? A room, some food, four or five "stop-bys" to insure personal safety, a few meds for comfort, a TV and a window..... It is what it is and none of us can escape it. There are people who genuinely care but they usually dont have enough education to get a chance to be involved. It makes me sad it makes me ashamed. For the record - When I get there just shoot me. If my facial expression does not change when I see what you are doing then I an not quite demented enough yet. Thanks -Richard

September 21 2010 at 8:28 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I agree more has to be done, and soon, because of the baby boomers. I brought my 91 year old father to live with me when my mother died ~~ he was at the early/mid stage of dementia. Over the next 4-1/2 years he got progressively worse and I finally decided to move him to dementia assisted living last month ~~ he died four days after moving in there at almost 96 years old. But the COST ~~ I had to reduce my hours to part-time for almost 5 years and gave up all outside activities. And for a nice dementia care assisted living here (Tucson, AZ) it is about $5,000 a month. The financial and emotional costs of dementia are enormous ~~ but I don't believe there is going to be a "cure" or prevention. My father was a health nut all his life ~~ eating right and athletic ~~ and was an engineer. We need to start planning for affordable, nice hospitals/assisted living places to take care of the upcoming deluge of dementia patients.

September 21 2010 at 8:20 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply

I suppose that cildren under the age of two or so have dementia too. The cryteria and the criteria are aboiut the same....I think we the people have been hustled, lied to, outright robbed and been overlooked so often by our leaders since the Nixon days that we are loosing our natural compassion. Look at all of the recent disasters and add up the contrabutions, the number of people affected, then do the math.... If the government wants to kill me when I can no longer keep up with the latest trends as determined by "them" then just do it. Dont waste time and recources trying to smooze my family into the notion that this is best for society then take all that I have left as a fee. All that to say this - If we cant do what is necessary to care for our old then the Medical Profession will be reducing itself to a "transmission repair shop"....Same as it ever was: Cash talks; Trash walks.

September 21 2010 at 8:13 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply