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Calls for action as data reveals Dementia to cost UK £90 billion by 2040

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New research has revealed that dementia is now costing the UK a massive £42 billion per year and is set to reach £90 billion by 2040.

The costs will be driven by a need for more complex health, social and unpaid care, which is set to increase by 43% by 2040.

In light of this data, the Alzheimer’s Society has called on the Government to make dementia a priority and urgently fix diagnosis. The charity has highlighted that only 1.4% of dementia healthcare costs are spent on diagnosis and treatment of the condition, and that families take on 63% of the costs.

Commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Society and carried out by Carnall Farrar Ltd, the study looked at the economic impact of dementia in the UK using the records of 26,000 people, dating back seven years.

The study findings suggest a pressing need to influence policy and drive change across five areas including early and accurate diagnosis, emerging therapies, unpaid care, social care, and data capture.

According to the data, the largest cost associated with dementia is the cost of unpaid care, which accounts for 50% of the total in 2024 and with one third of dementia carers currently reporting that they spend more than 100 hours a week in unpaid care.

The data also showed that 43% more people are expected to receive unpaid care by 2040.

As well as care costs, the findings revealed that less than 65% of people with dementia are diagnosed, underscoring an urgent need to improve screening to identify more cases earlier, increase the use of imaging and cerebrospinal tests for confirmation, and to enable earlier action by families and readiness for available treatments.

Kate Lee, Alzheimer’s Society CEO, stated: “One in three people born today will develop dementia. It’s the biggest health and care issue of our time, yet it isn’t the priority it should be amongst decision-makers. We wouldn’t accept this for any other terminal disease, we shouldn’t accept this for dementia.

“One in three people with dementia do not have a diagnosis. They are facing dementia alone without access the vital care, support, and treatments. If we don’t address diagnosis, we have no hope of addressing the major dementia challenges we face and reducing the cost to the health service and wider economy.

“Dementia’s devastating impact is colossal – on the lives of those it affects, on the healthcare system and on the economy. Now is the time to prioritise dementia, and that starts with getting more people diagnosed.”

Prevention and cost reduction

Dementia prevention charity Food For The Brain Foundation has stated that these costs could easily be halved by focussing on prevention.

The charity highlighted a recent study from the UK Biobank data, conducted by two of the charity’s scientific advisors; China’s leading dementia prevention Professor Jin-Tai Yu from Fudan University, and by former deputy head of Oxford University’s school of medical science, Professor David Smith, which concluded that “up to 73% of dementia can be prevented” by focussing on prevention.

Patrick Holford, CEO of foodforthebrain.org, stated: “The reality is that over 80% of dementia could be prevented right now if we took prevention seriously.

“The quickest wins are testing people, for free, for cognitive function then identifying those at risk and why they are at risk. Dementia is diagnosed with a cognitive function test and changes occur at least thirty years before a diagnosis. This is doable right now with no cost at all.”

Holford emphasised that other measures such as increasing omega-3 fats from seafood and supplements, and lowering high homocysteine with B vitamins, would be beneficial, emphasising that the higher a person’s omega-3 level, the better their cognition and the more brain density they have.

“Half of those over 65 have raised blood homocysteine which is easily lowered with a 10p a day B vitamin supplement,” stated Holford.

“The health economist at Oxford University costed the saving just from this one prevention step as £65 million a year. B vitamins with omega-3 have already been shown to reduce the annual rate of brain shrinkage by 73% in those at risk.”

Holford stated that another big driver of dementia is sugar and ultra-processed foods: “Diabetes doubles dementia risk and accelerates brain shrinkage but we can pick up those with the beginnings of blood sugar problems in mid-life where they have high but ‘normal’ levels of blood sugar which has been shown to increase Alzheimer’s risk by 14.5%.”

With research showing that low vitamin D levels triple the risk for Alzheimer’s, and that those who supplement vitamin D cut Alzheimer’s risk by a third, the charity also offers a home-test kit that those at risk can use to measure homocysteine, omega-3, vitamin D and sugar balance.

“None of the major charities are taking prevention and the role of nutrition in brain health seriously” says Holford.

“Kate Lee of the Alzheimer’s Society told me they spend nothing on prevention. Alzheimer’s Research UK told us they spend 4.3% of all research money on non-drug prevention. When 80% is preventable surely at least half of research funds should be spent on non-drug prevention? We do not need to wait for more research.

“Dementia is diagnosed using a cognitive function test done in memory clinics. But by the time a GP refers a patient it is often too late. We offer exactly this cognitive function test for free, online at foodforthebrain.org. There is no need to wait for or a mythical blood test to ‘diagnose early’.

“This is like having a blood test to diagnose how unfit you are. Even if this existed, the critical question for those at risk is how to reduce it. All that is needed is to take prevention seriously. It is not difficult.

“The government has pledged £166 million for dementia a year but no-one can tell us if any of this is actually to be spent on prevention research or putting prevention into action.”

Vicky McClure MBE, actor and Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador, stated: “More needs to be done now to support people in getting a dementia diagnosis.

“Dementia can absolutely devastate families in so many ways but receiving an early diagnosis can be a lifeline for people to access the vital treatment and care they desperately need.”

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