Dementia: At a glance
What is dementia?
Dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing and is not a disease in its own right. It is an umbrella term. Use this page to find out more about how it affects people across the United Kingdom.
It describes the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by certain diseases or conditions that cause the gradual death of brain cells. This leads to progressive cognitive decline.
How fast cognitive decline progresses will vary from person to person and may depend on which type of dementia they have. Symptoms include:
- loss of memory
- changes in behaviour and mood
- problems wih communication and reasoning skills.
This Alzheimer’s Society video explains what dementia is, how it affects the brain and how it might affect a person with the disease.
There are many different types of dementia. The most common are:
For more information on the above, see Early signs of dementia.
Experiencing dementia from the inside
Who does dementia affect?
More than 920,000 people in the UK are living with dementia – a number expected to rise to over a million by 2024 (Alzheimer’s Society, 2019).
The vast majority of people with dementia are aged 65 and over, accounting for over 880,000 people. However, an estimated 40,000 people under 65 are living with dementia in the UK (Alzeimer's Society, 2014).
- there are over 25,000 people with dementia from black and minority ethnic groups in England and Wales, and this is estimated to rise to nearly 50,000 by 2026
- there are 209,600 new cases of dementia in the UK each year
- worldwide, around 50 million people are currently estimated to have dementia and there are 10 million new cases each year
- two thirds of people with dementia are women and over 600,000 women in the UK are now living with dementia. The condition is the leading cause of death in women in the UK.
According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, the total estimated worldwide cost of dementia was US $1 trillion in 2018. If dementia care were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy . If dementia care were a company, it would be the world’s largest by annual revenue exceeding Apple, Google and Exxon.
Key UK statistics
- Dementia costs the UK economy about £35 billion in 2019 – more than cancer and heart disease combined. Social care attributes 45 per cent of these costs, and another 40 per cent is from unpaid care.
- There are over 700,000 unpaid carers of people with dementia in the UK. Women are more likely to take on unpaid caring roles for people with dementia and are two and a half times more likely than men to provide intensive, 24-hour care.
- Out of people those who are aged over 65 living with dementia, 61 per cent live in the community in their own homes. The rest – 39 per cent – live in a care home.
- An estimated 80 per cent of people living in care homes have either dementia or severe memory problems.
- Regarding health conditions, 92 per cent of people living with dementia have at least one other health condition and 45 per cent have four or more other health conditions.
- In England 68.7 per cent of people aged 65 and over with dementia had a formal diagnosis in 2019, 53 per cent in Wales in 2017/18, 73% in Northern Ireland in 2017/18 and 67 per cent in Scotland in 2017/18.
- Deaths due to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are the leading cause of death in England and Wales, accounting for over 67,000 deaths and 12.8 per cent of all deaths registered.
National dementia strategies
Each strategy has one central objective – to provide better care and support for people with dementia and their families.
Scotland’s third National Dementia Strategy was published in 2017. Its focus is on diagnosis, including post-diagnostic support; care co-ordination during the middle stage of dementia; end of life and palliative care; workforce development and capability; data and information; and research.
The Welsh Government’s Dementia Action Plan for Wales 2018–2022 aims to create new ways of caring, training and increasing the number of support workers, increasing rates of diagnoses and strengthening collaborative working between social care and housing.
The Northern Ireland Executive’s Dementia Services Programme, Dementia Together NI, ran from 2013 to 2017. It aimed to raise awareness, information and support for people living with a dementia; deliver training and development for those in the caring professions, both formally and informally; and provide respite, short breaks and support for carers.
In 2012 Prime Minister David Cameron launched Challenge on dementia to ensure that England ‘is the best country in the world for dementia care and support and for people with dementia, their carers and families to live and is the best place in the world to undertake research into dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases’. A review of progress was undertaken in 2018.
Further reading Open
Alzheimer’s Disease International (2010) World Alzheimer report 2010: The global economic impact of dementia, London: ADI.
Alzheimer’s Research UK Dementia Statistics Hub online information
Alzheimer Scotland, ‘Number of people with dementia in Scotland in 2015’ online information.
Alzheimer’s Society (2015) Dementia 2015 London: Alzheimer’s Society.
Care Policy and Evaluation Centre (2019) ) Projections of older people with dementia and costs of dementia care in the United Kingdom, 2019–2040. London School of Economics and Political Science
Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (2011) ‘Improving dementia services in Northern Ireland: a regional strategy’. Belfast: DHSSPS, Northern Ireland Assembly.
Department of Health (2012) Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia: Delivering major improvements in dementia care and research by 2015, London: Department of Health.
Department of Health and Social Care (2019) Dementia 2020 Challenge: 2018 Review Phase 1
House of Commons Library (2019) Dementia: policy, services and statistics overview
Scottish Government (2017) Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy 2017-2020, Edinburgh: Scottish Government
SCIE: An introduction to the mental health of older people (e-learning resource), in particular Module 5: Understanding the early stages of dementia and Module 6: https://www.scie.org.uk/e-learning/mental-health-older-people#module06
SCIE Social Care TV: The causes of dementia
Welsh Government (2018) Dementia Action Plan for Wales 2018-2022