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  • Writer's pictureKim Rasmussen

What is the global cost of Alzheimer’s?

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

If global dementia care were a country, it would be the 18th largest economy in the world.”[1]

That quote from Alzheimer’s Disease International starkly illustrates the cost of managing dementia. At over $1 trillion per year worldwide, dementia costs equate to the entire GDP of the Netherlands or roughly a third of that of the UK. And with Alzheimer’s disease accounting for up to 75% of those costs, it is no wonder that there is a global drive to find ways of effectively identifying and managing the condition.

In fact, that $1 trillion figure may well be an underestimation. The calculation includes direct medical care costs (20%), direct costs of social care in the home or in residential accommodation (40%), and unpaid care provided by family and others (40%). Two potentially significant costs are therefore excluded from the calculation.

The first is quite simply the reduced contribution which those with Alzheimer’s are able to make to the global economy. The years from 2021-2030 have been nominated by the UN as ‘The Decade of Healthy Ageing,’ with a goal of ensuring that “older people can fulfill their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.” [2]

Alzheimer’s and related dementias have been recognised as one of the greatest threats to those goals. There is a standard measure of the impact of disease known as Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). For dementia, this has been estimated at 33.1 million years in 2019, rising to 55.1 million in 2030. [3] Early identification of Alzheimer’s through the deployment of non-invasive devices such as that being developed by Occuity can help people to better manage their condition, thereby reducing that long-term impact on the global economy.

The second significant cost relates to the impact on family carers. A study published in 2014 and quoted in an article on the American Journal of Managed Care [4] highlighted conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, mood and anxiety disorders, and insomnia as being significantly more prevalent in those providing family care for Alzheimer’s patients. Worryingly, substance abuse was also identified as an increased risk; perhaps reflecting the burden which family members face when caring for loved ones who have developed Alzheimer’s disease. As a result, the report identified family carers as having “significantly higher average annual healthcare costs ($7168 ± $10,050 vs $6301 ± $8311).”

$1 trillion or more, the true cost of Alzheimer’s is in the impact which it has on the lives of individuals and their loved ones. That’s why early identification is so vital; giving people a chance to manage or mitigate their condition, and to enjoy good quality family life for longer.

To find out more about our future ambition to apply our technology to support the earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer's click here.

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