TBH Science Update June 2017 | Study Suggests Worldwide Dementia Rates Declining, Perhaps Due to Lifestyle

Study Suggests Worldwide Dementia Rates Declining, Perhaps Due to Lifestyle

What: A recent review of epidemiological research on worldwide rates suggests a downward trend in the prevalence and incidence of dementia. Researchers used data from 14 large studies looking at the prevalence (9 studies) and incidence (5 studies) from Europe, Asia, the US and Africa. With the exception of Japan, the studies uniformly showed steady or declining rates of dementia incidence and prevalence.

Why This Matters: Dementia is a leading global health challenge, affecting approximately 50 million people worldwide. Agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO) predict dementia rates will grow to 131.5 million by 2050, leading to a worldwide dementia “epidemic” with consequent economic and societal burden. This study, however, suggests that past rates may in fact not necessarily be predictive of future incidence and prevalence of dementia diseases. While it is unclear what mechanism may be impacting this change in dementia rates, the authors note that behavioral interventions such as improved education, nutrition and healthcare “have favourably influenced physical, mental and cognitive health” and may be a contributing factor to lowered dementia rates within the studied generations. Although other studies have reported a downward trend in global dementia rates, this study is significant for its size and scope in presenting data from so many large epidemiological studies internationally.

The Takeaway: This study offers a very promising message – global dementia rates may be on the decline, and the reason may be that we are living lives that support better overall health, including interventions across the wellness spectrum (like those taught in our TBH Blueprint) that support better brain fitness. We hope that everyone – from policy makers to wellness administrators to private citizens – takes note.

Wu YT, Beiser, AS, Breteler, MMB et al. The changing prevalence and incidence of dementia over time – current evidence. Nat Rev Neurol. 2017 Jun;13(6):327-339. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2017.63. Epub 2017 May 12.

Find all science articles discussed in our TBH Science Updates online in our new PubMed public folder “2017 TBH Science Updates.” Click HERE to go to the folder – be sure to bookmark it!