Dollars and Dementia


The World Alzheimer’s Report 2015 contained some startling and important information on what is fast becoming one of the world’s most famous (and widely prevalent) diseases. Most of the information in this piece comes from that report. We have culled salient information from The World Alzheimer’s Report 2015 and other sources for the benefit of our readers.

Dementia Is an Expansive and Expensive Disease

 Did You Know

  • Dementia costs the United States more than $800 billion per year.
  • It is due to become “a trillion dollar disease” by the year 2018.
  • By 2030 dementia will cost the United States two trillion dollars per year.

(World Alzheimer’s Report 2015)

That’s one pricey disease!

Dementia is also an expensive disease.

Did You Know

  • The number of people living with dementia worldwide is slated to double every twenty years.
  • Almost 75 million people will have dementia in 2030.
  • 130 million will have the disease by 2050.
  • Currently, 46 million people in the world have dementia.
  • 46 million people is greater than the population of Spain.

(World Alzheimer’s Report 2015)

Did You Know

  • So far as we know, the primary cause of dementia is aging.
  • There are 900 million older people in our world today.
  • That is roughly three times the population of the United States.

The World Is Getting Richer, and Rich People Live Longer

In general, wealthy people live longer than poorer people, so as the world increases its wealth, more people may be expected to live longer and hence be subject to dementia.

For example, The Washington Post carried an article about how a study of two counties in Florida found a life expectancy difference of four years between a wealthy country and a poorer one.

The world is getting wealthier, so numbers of elderly people may increase.

Did You Know

  • 41 countries have moved up into a higher World Bank wealth classification in 2015.
  • Only Southern Sudan moved into a lower wealth classification.
  • 14 countries moved from being low-income countries to being lower-middle income countries.
  • 17 countries moved from being lower-middle income countries to being upper-middle income countries.
  • 10 jumped from being upper-middle income countries to being high-income countries.

(World Bank figures quoted in the World Alzheimer’s Report 2015)

Yet when it comes to worldwide figures on dementia, the higher populations of poorer countries leaves them most vulnerable to high incidences of dementia. These higher incidences due to bigger populations are not offset by lower life expectancy than in wealthier countries. For example:

Did You Know

  • The numbers of older people in high-income countries is forecast to increase by just 56% by the year 2050.
  • The numbers of older people in upper-middle income countries and lower-middle will swell by about 150%.
  • In low-income countries, the population of older people is expected to increase by 239%.

(World Alzheimer’s Report 2015)

Thus we can see that low-income countries are going to be hit with the largest numbers of dementia patients. This expensive and expansive disease will be especially hard to cope with in these countries.

Yet the World Alzheimer’s Report 2015 held out the hope that aging alone might not be the cause of dementia. Lifestyle factors may play a part too. As countries increase in wealth, they develop some bad health habits. For example:

Did You Know

  • Middle-income countries have more sedentary lifestyles.
  • Middle-income countries consume more salt.
  • Middle income countries consume more sugar.
  • Middle-income countries have fattier diets.
  • Middle-income countries have more people who smoke.

(World Alzheimer’s Report 2015)

These lifestyle factors contribute in some part to the onset of long-term chronic diseases, which may include dementia.

Once a country works its way into being a high-income country, though, increased education and access to medical information and care means that more people in the population do healthy things. For example:

Did You Know

  • Higher income countries have fewer smokers.
  • Higher income countries have more people who take dietary and medical steps to lower cholesterol.
  • Higher income countries have more people who take dietary and medical steps to lower blood pressure.
  • Higher income countries understand the importance of exercise.

(World Alzheimer’s Report 2015)

The World Alzheimer’s Report 2015 speculates that as countries become richer, better informed, and more able to make good lifestyle choices, dementia may start to appear in populations much later in life. The hope is that a very late onset of dementia will leave patients suffering from it for but a brief period before death, making the disease more manageable all around.


 Fletcher, Michael A.Research ties economic inequality to gap in life expectancy.” The Washington Post, March 10, 2013. Available online at

Price, Martin & Anders, Wimo & Guerchet, Maelenn & Ali, Gemma-Claire & Wu, Yu-Tzu & Prina, Matthew & Alzheimer’s Disease International. The World Alzheimer’s Report 2015. Alzheimer’s Disease International, August 2015. Available online at


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