New research released at the 8th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders, indicates that the prevalence of the disease in the United States will increase from 4.5 million in 2000 to between 11 and 16 million by the year 2050.
The study, conducted by Denis A. Evans, M.D., of the Rush Institute on Healthy Aging and the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago, bases its findings on figures from the Chicago Health and Aging Project, a large study supported by the National Institutes of Health, and population figures from the 2000 U.S. Census.
Projections from this study are consistent with, though slightly higher than, projections from a similar study using 1990 U.S. Census data conducted by Evans 10 years ago.
The Alzheimer's disease incidence data represent a population-based study of 6,158 persons and projects low, middle and high estimates of people with the disease in three age categories: 65-74, 75-84, and 85+. The study's findings show little change in the youngest age group, but significant increases in the two older groups.
Evans attributes the surge in the two older age groups to the size of the population moving into the age for Alzheimer onset within the next 10 years and the life span of that population extending beyond 85 years of age.
"The study shows growth in the current Alzheimer population over the next 50 years, with the most significant surge in the 85 and older age group, or the oldest of the old," Evans said.
According to Alzheimer's Disease International, there are 18 million people worldwide with dementia. The World Health Reports 2001, from the World Health Organization, estimated that there may be as many as 37 million people worldwide with dementia.
It is estimated that costs for treating Alzheimer's disease in the U.S. alone are at least $100 billion annually. A study released last month estimated the cost to U.S. businesses – in lost productivity and absenteeism of employees who care for family members with Alzheimer's disease – to be $61 billion a year.
Alzheimer's Association Interim President and CEO Stephen McConnell, Ph.D., warned of the ramifications for health care systems around the world and cited the scope of research on the cost of Alzheimer's being presented at the conference as further evidence that Alzheimer's is a looming global crisis.
"The study on Alzheimer prevalence and those on the costs related to Alzheimer's underscore the urgent need for more research into the causes, prevention and treatment of this devastating disease," McConnell said. "We must find the answers before these projections become a reality. That's why in the United States the Alzheimer's Association is urging the U.S. Congress to increase federal funding of Alzheimer research to $1 billion."