Dementia is among the ten leading causes of disability worldwide. To better understand the impact of dementia on society and the economy, it is crucial to delve into its direct and indirect societal costs. Such global estimates can be challenging to derive, as countries may have different ways of measuring or classifying the costs linked to dementia, or due to a lack of available data. In the present study, and as part of the World Health Organization Global Status Report on the Public Health Response to Dementia, researchers used available studies on cost of illnesses and informal care for dementia to calculate the global cost of dementia in 2019.
The latter was found to reach USD 1313.4 billion (EUR 1,209,084,080,906.46) in 2019, a much larger figure than the previous estimations of USD 818 billion for 2015 and USD 604 billion for 2010. Of the estimated USD 1313.4 billion, 16% were attributed to the direct medical costs of dementia, while 34% were linked to direct social sector costs, including long-term care costs. 58% of the costs were attributed to informal care - this refers to unpaid care provided by carers/ supporters of people with dementia, e.g. by a spouse or family member. The researchers described these dementia-related costs as ‘huge’, expected to rise in upcoming years and requiring appropriate country-level plans. Although high-income countries harbour a smaller proportion of people with dementia (39%), when compared to lower-income countries, 74% of global costs of dementia were found to fall in high-income countries.
The disproportionate cost borne by high-income countries may be attributed to the lack of available care infrastructures in low- and middle-income countries. Additionally, a lot of the care provided to people with dementia in low- and middle-income countries is done so informally. On the other hand, high-income countries face high social care costs. The paper’s authors commented this exemplifies an imbalance in the global distribution of available resources to tackle dementia, and is an important reminder of the need to find disease-modifying treatments for the condition.