Results from two major cohort studies reveal that the number of people with dementia in the UK is substantially lower than expected because overall prevalence in the 65+ age group has dropped.

The two studies provide the first estimate of the change in the number of people living with dementia in the UK. The results indicate that overall prevalence has gone down by 1.8 per cent to an estimated 6.5 per cent of the population. Using the current age profiles of the UK this corresponds to an estimated 670,000 people over the age of 65 living with dementia, a reduction of more than 20 per cent in the number of people projected to have dementia today compared with 20 years ago.

Three geographical areas in Newcastle, Nottingham and Cambridgeshire from the initial MRC Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (CFAS) examined levels of dementia in the population. The latest figures from the follow up study, CFAS II, show that there is variation in the proportion of people with dementia across differing areas of deprivation, suggesting that health inequalities during life may influence a person’s likelihood of developing dementia.

The study was led by Professor Carol Brayne from the Cambridge Institute of Public Health at Cambridge University. She 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 later 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, including addressing inequalities.”

The full results of the study are published online in The Lancet on Tuesday 16 July and are available for download at the link below.

(Article modified from MRC press release)

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