Dementia costs the UK economy £23bn a year and affects 820,000 people, according to research out today which found that the impact of the disease was far higher than previously thought and that research funding was far too low.
The Dementia 2010 report, published by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust exactly 12 months after the government’s national dementia strategy, has revised upwards previous estimates that the disease affected 700,000 people at an overall cost of £17bn a year.
The research, by Oxford University’s health economics research centre, found that dementia’s annual cost was more than cancer (£12bn a year) and heart disease (£8bn a year) combined – yet while £590m a year was spent on cancer research and £169m on heart disease, just £50m went on dementia research.
The trust’s chief executive, Rebecca Wood, said: “The true impact of dementia has been ignored for too long. The UK’s dementia crisis is worse than we feared. This report shows that dementia is the greatest medical challenge of the 21st century.”
Responding to today’s report, the Alzheimer’s Society said: “With the right investment dementia can be defeated. Ahead of the election, all political parties must wake up to the human and economic cost of this devastating condition.”
Informal care made up more than half of the total costs of dementia (£12.4bn), with social care taking up £9bn, healthcare £1.2bn and lost productivity £29m.
The study also found that just 31% of people with dementia were registered on GPs’ lists, confirming the low rates of diagnosis that the national dementia strategy is seeking to improve.
The previous estimates of the impact of dementia were identified in the Dementia UK report, published by the Alzheimer’s Society in 2007 and produced by King’s College London and the London School of Economics. Today’s research used a different approach to calculating prevalence; had it used the same approach taken by KCL and LSE the total annual costs would have been £20bn.
National dementia strategy at risk of failure, says NAO