The total worldwide costs of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, rose to more than $600 billion this year, according to a report issued by the World Alzheimer's Association.
The study estimates 35.6 million people were diagnosed worldwide in 2010 with dementia, notably Alzheimer's disease, at a cost of $605 billion in care and treatment for patients, as well as lost productivity of those with the disease and caregivers.
According to the study, 46 percent of people with dementia live in high income countries, almost 40 percent in middle income countries and 14 percent in low income countries.
Experts say the number of Alzheimer's cases will likely double during the next 20 years to 65.7 million in 2030 and to more than 115 million cases in 2050.
President of the Alzheimer's Association Harry Johns says the societal cost of Alzheimer's will skyrocket in the next 40 years, and yet there is relatively little funding for research in the world and the United States, which carries the highest burden.
"Alzheimer's research funding is at $469 million and that is up against that $172 billion it is costing us today for dementia care alone," he said. "And by the middle of the century, if we can not change the course of the disease, the cost of care annually will exceed one trillion dollars, that is cost us one trillion dollars, that is with a "t.'" It will cost us one trillion dollars."
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurological disorder caused by the death brain cells that robs people of their memory, thinking and cause erratic behavior. The incurable disease eventually leads to incapacitation and death.
Johns says Alzheimers is usually associated with people in their seventies and eighties. But he says the number of people under age 65 getting diagnosed with the disease is increasing as the population of many countries goes up and some of the economies of lower and middle countries improve.
Johns says it is important for people to get diagnosed early in the course of the illness.
"Diagnosis can mean a difference in their functional lives even though we do not have a treatment today that slows or stops the disease," he said. "Diagnosis can make a difference in their lives because of the drugs that are available, diagnosis is a positive."
Johns encourages anyone interesting in learning about the early signs of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia to go to the World Alzheimer's Association's website.