Every 3 seconds a person in the world is taken ill with dementia; in Italy this happens every 2 minutes.

Dementia, an underestimated phenomenon

Today there are 47.5 million people in the world suffering from dementia, 8.2 million in Europe and 1.2 million in Italy

From now till 2050 these figures are bound to rise significantly: it is, in fact, estimated that by 2050 there will be 2.3 million sufferers in Italy, 16 in Europe and as many as 135.5 million in the world.

We are referring to a disease which cost 818 billion dollars in 2015 alone, 1.1% of the world’s GDP: if healthcare support for dementia were a nation, it would be the eighteenth economy in the world.  Meanwhile, in Italy, expenditure in 2015 reached 37.6 billion euro, 2% of the national GDP.

Dementia is a syndrome that can be caused by a variety of diseases that bring about a progressive alteration in certain functions such as memory, reasoning powers, language, orientation and personality. Among the causes, the most common is Alzheimer’s disease.

At the present time only a third of those affected by dementia are correctly diagnosed, and this diagnosis is usually made at too late a stage.

Since research in the field of Neurosciences has confirmed that the pathological processes leading, over the years, to neuronal death start 15-20 years prior to the appearance of clinical signs, early diagnosis and therapeutic intervention  would enable:

  • timely action on the causes of reversible forms of dementia;
  • the introduction of therapies to slow down the progression of the disease;
  • the start of therapies with the power to boost the patient’s cognitive performance, by exploiting the neuronal circuits that are not totally impaired;
  • the timely implementation by both patient and family of the measures necessary to resolve the problems connected with the progression of the disease.

Alongside early diagnosis it is also necessary to make further efforts to improve the treatments of patients suffering from dementia, to raise the awareness of the general public, to provide better training for social and healthcare personnel and to upgrade the health service. Last but not least, it is vital to provide more support for the families caring for the sufferers, whose commitment to them is uninterrupted.

It is crucial for the various countries to add the issue of dementia management to their Healthcare Agenda. This is a health emergency in the real sense of the term, which has been underestimated until now by the leading economies which have allocated far too few resources to treatment, services, assistance and research.

For further details,
read the 2015 Meridiano Sanità Report (Chapter on “Mental disorders”)

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