Dementia figures grow in ageing population
Australia’s ageing population is leading to more people suffering from dementia, according to a new report.
The report, led by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research chief investigator Professor Kaarin Anstey, highlights seven key modifiable lifestyle factors which are attributed to dementia; the rising numbers of people with dementia; and the increasing cost to families, carers, and the economy.
Dementia is the leading cause of disability among Australians over 65 and the second leading cause of death in Australia.
In 2016, the direct costs alone of dementia were almost $9 billion in Australia, with a predicted increase to $12 billion by 2025.
Prof Anstey said the critical report highlighted the prevalence of dementia in Australia and how our ageing population trends would result in greater numbers of people with dementia.
‘‘Australia’s ageing population is leading to an increasing number of Australians with the disease, which will further impact individuals, society and the economy over the next decade,’’ Prof Anstey said.
The report also found knowledge of the cause of dementia in the senior community varied greatly, raising the need for in-depth dementia awareness workshops and community involvement.
Prof Anstey estimated almost 50 per cent of dementia cases could be attributed to seven key modifiable lifestyle factors — midlife hypertension, diabetes, low educational attainment, smoking, physical inactivity, mid-life obesity and depression.
The impact of dementia goes far beyond individual health. The report noted there are direct, indirect and intangible costs of dementia for the wider society and significant indirect costs to Australia’s economy.
For example, dementia patients and those who care for them often have to withdraw from the workforce.
For someone with moderate dementia, the care hours are 17 per week on average, while severe cases involve hours similar to a full-time job.
In 2016, the cost of foregone work hours was estimated to be $5.5 billion.
More than 400 000 Australians are living with dementia. These figures have been revised upward from past projections.
Prof Anstey said more accurate projections of dementia rates out to 2030 were critical to enable government policy makers and community services to better plan for the impact of cognitive decline in the future.