Dementia rates declining in older Australians

15 Mar 2019
Dementia rates declining in older Australians

Dementia rates among older Australians accessing home or long-term care services are declining according to a large-scale evaluation undertaken by the SAHMRI-based Registry of Older South Australians (ROSA). 

The project’s lead author, SAHMRI Research Fellow Dr Stephanie Harrison, says the positive findings could be the result of national public health measures to improve overall health of the population. 

“Research consistently shows that there are measures which can be taken to reduce risk of dementia,” Dr Harrison said. 

“By improving our physical health, we might also be improving our cognitive health. 

“Initiatives to improve factors such as smoking rates might be helping but we also have to consider that some risk factors for dementia, such as mid-life obesity rates, are increasing in Australia. 

“It’s likely there are a combination of factors impacting dementia prevalence so there is probably still room for improvement.” 

The study of 188,846 older people receiving home care services found the prevalence of dementia fell from 26 per cent in 2005 to 21 per cent in 2014. For 348,311 older people starting long-term care the dementia rate fell from 50 per cent in 2008 to 47 per cent in 2014. 

“The findings are consistent with other studies reporting a decline in the prevalence of dementia in countries such as the US and the UK,” Dr Harrison said. 

There are currently estimated to be more than 436,000 Australians living with dementia. Those figures are predicted to rise above 589,000 people by 2028 and above 1 million people by 2058. 

“The overall number of older Australians with dementia and people accessing aged care will increase because of the ageing population,” Dr Harrison said. 

“But there could be a need to reassess current estimates as we should consider that the prevalence of dementia in Australia might be changing.” 

The research, the first in Australia to investigate dementia prevalence, was published today in The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.