Dementia rates 'falling in UK', research shows

Rates of dementia among the elderly have fallen by almost a quarter over the last 20 years, research has found.

Cases of dementia may be lower than first thought (Photo: Paul Starr)
Cases of dementia may be lower than first thought (Photo: Paul Starr)

The Medical Research Council (MRC) study, published in the Lancet, found rates of the disease among over 65s in the UK were 24% lower in 2011 than predicted.

Experts welcomed the fall but warned the government against cutting funding for dementia services.

Researchers assessed the lifestyles and health of 7,635 people aged over 65 for the MRC-funded Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies I (CFAS I) project between 1989 and 1994. A total of 1,457 participants were then checked for signs of dementia.

A second project, CFAS II, repeated these assessments in 7,796 patients in 2008-11.

Based on figures for 1989-94, researchers predicted that 8.3% of people over 65 would have dementia in 2011, or 884,000 people across the UK.

However, actual figures from CFAS II showed the prevalence was just 6.5%, or 670,000 people.

The finding means 214,000 fewer people in the UK have dementia than was expected, equivalent to a 24% fall.

Lead author Professor Carol Brayne of the University of Cambridge said: 'This study provides compelling evidence of a reduction in the prevalence of dementia in the older population over two decades.

'Whether or not these gains for the current older population will be borne out in future generations would seem to depend on whether further improvements in primary prevention and effective health care for conditions which increase dementia risk can be achieved.'

Alison Cook, director of external affairs at the Alzheimer’s Society, said better heart health and education may have reduced prevalence. 'While this is good news, this is one study which needs careful examination and may not indicate a continuing trend. For example, we also know that other risk factors such as obesity are in fact increasing.'

She added: ‘Dementia remains the biggest health and social care challenge facing the UK. Today’s research doesn’t mean we can take our eye off the ball.'

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

External wall of GP surgery with wording 'medical centre'

‘Utterly toxic’: GPs speak out over abuse and physical attacks on practice teams

GPs have condemned a rise in verbal and physical attacks on practice staff - warning...

Artist's image of a spiked virus

Javid warns of 'substantial risk' from new COVID-19 variant

The highly mutated COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 'may pose a significant risk to public...

Desk with lettering 'LMC conference'

LMCs reject 'outdated' GMS contract and demand move to item of service payments

LMCs have voted to scrap the 'outdated and inadequate' GMS contract and to replace...

GPs at an LMC conference waving green voting cards in the air

LMCs demand ringfence on enhanced services cash and clear GP representation in ICSs

LMCs have called for a ringfence on enhanced services funding, along with a guarantee...

Close up of hands typing on a computer

Practices should not be required to provide online consultations, say LMCs

Online consultations should no longer be a part of the GMS contract and targets for...

Sign outside BMA House

More than half of GP practices prepared to pull out of PCNs, BMA ballot shows

More than half of GP practices in England are prepared to opt out of the PCN DES...