New findings released today show the extent of cognitive ageing and decline trends across Australia.
Conducted by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) and Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), the report highlights the lifestyle factors attributed to the prevalence of dementia, its impact on families and carers and the cost to the economy.
Dementia remains the leading cause of disability among Australians over 65, and the second leading cause of death. Last year the direct costs of dementia were estimated at $9 billion, with this figure expected to reach $12 billion by 2025.
CEPAR chief investigator Professor Kaarin Anstey said the report showed rates of dementia continued to double every five years or so, and stressed that our current ageing population trends would only contribute to this increase.
“Australia’s ageing population is leading to an increasing number of Australians with the disease which will further impact individuals, society and the economy over the next decade,” Anstey said.
“The report also found that the knowledge-base around the cause of dementia in the senior community varied greatly, raising the need for in-depth dementia awareness workshops and community involvement.
“While some detrimental attributing factors to dementia such as smoking and alcohol consumption were known, other factors connected to cognitive health were unknown to over 95 per cent of the sample population – this highlights the need for increased local community engagement and advocacy.
The above figure shows findings from the study
Anstey estimated that about 50 per cent of dementia cases could be attributed to seven key lifestyle factors: midlife hypertension, diabetes, low educational attainment, smoking, physical inactivity, mid-life obesity and depression.
The report noted the impact of dementia not just on the health of the individual, but also on wider society. For example, those with dementia and their carers often have to withdraw from the workforce.
The average weekly care for someone with dementia sat at 17 hours a week, and in some severe cases involved hours similar to a full-time job. In 2016, the cost of foregone work hours was estimated to be $5.5 billion.
The report also looked into another area of cognitive ageing – financial frailty.
CEPAR director Professor John Piggott said the report made it clear that those with cognitive impairment were more susceptible to poor financial decision-making.
“Our retirement income system is very complex and requires a lot of active decisions,” he said. “We are only beginning to think about how population ageing will affect the decision-making ability of older cohorts and what insights psychology and behavioural finance can bring.”
Commenting on the outcomes of the report, Anstey said further investment into ageing research was needed to identify more risk factors, adapt the workplace for older workers, and develop strategies to guide financial decision-making in older age.Do you have an idea for a story?
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