Cost of dementia to UK could almost double to £91bn by 2040, study finds

<span>Despite the benefits of early diagnosis, just 1.4% of the disease’s healthcare costs go on that, according to the report.</span><span>Photograph: Ian Allenden/Alamy</span>
Despite the benefits of early diagnosis, just 1.4% of the disease’s healthcare costs go on that, according to the report.Photograph: Ian Allenden/Alamy

Dementia could cost the UK almost £91bn a year by 2040, as the number of people affected rises inexorably, a study has found.

The “colossal” costs of the disease are likely to more than double from an already “staggering” £42.5bn today to £90.6bn, according to research undertaken for the Alzheimer’s Society.

That projected rise will happen in line with an expected increase in the number of diagnosed cases from 981,575 to 1,402,010, related to an ageing and growing population.

The Alzheimer’s Society and the British Geriatrics Society (BGS), which represents doctors who specialise in care of older people, said the huge costs of dementia – Britain’s biggest killer – should prompt ministers and the NHS to take urgent action to improve early diagnosis.

“Dementia’s devastating impact is colossal – on the lives of those it affects, on the healthcare system and on the economy”, said Kate Lee, the Alzheimer’s Society’s chief executive.

Lack of prompt diagnosis leaves families to “pick up the pieces” and face “catastrophic costs further down the line”, the charity said.

Its research, carried out by the health policy analysts Carnall Farrar, used an examination of the health records of 26,097 dementia patients going back to 2017 to identify the disease’s current and future costs.

“The projected rise in the prevalence of dementia poses a significant healthcare, social care and economic challenge, and highlights the urgent need to prioritise it as a health and care concern,” the report concludes.

Carnall Farrar’s figures look at the full costs of dementia, such as extra heating costs, legal fees and police callouts, as well as the impact on the economy through someone’s lost consumption, rather than just spending by health and social care services.

Healthcare costs will almost double by 2040, from £7.1bn to £13.5bn, while the costs of providing social care to people with dementia will rise even more sharply – from £17.2bn to £40.7bn. The costs of unpaid care, provided by relatives and friends, will jump from £21.1bn to £40.1bn, they calculated.

Despite the benefits of early diagnosis, just 1.4% of the disease’s total healthcare costs go on that, they noted.

The Alzheimer’s Society said someone with mild dementia cost the UK £28,777 a year, while for someone with a severe form of the disease the figure is £80,499.

Paul Kemp, 57, from Kent, whose wife, Sandy, 55, has early onset dementia, said her condition meant she was “increasingly aggressive and agitated and is regressing quickly”.

The two-year delay before she was diagnosed, after doctors initially thought she had depression, “felt like an agonising lifetime to wait”. “If an early and accurate diagnosis was given, we could have accessed the right support, but we’ve been robbed of that precious time, he said.

“I’ve had to give up work to become a full-time carer for Sandy and my mother and sell personal items to pay for care and buy essentials. I feel no one in government understands the financial pressures carers face.”

The president of the BGS, Prof Adam Gordon, said while not everyone wanted to receive an early diagnosis of dementia, but “I see the harms of late diagnosis on a daily basis.”

He said: “Every day on the ward I meet people living with dementia and their families who haven’t had time to discuss the diagnosis, adjust or plan for the type of care they want until they find themselves in crisis.”

The Department of Health and Social Care did not comment directly on the charity’s findings. A spokesperson said timely diagnosis of dementia was vital and that it was doubling dementia research funding to £160m and including it in its forthcoming major conditions strategy.