Background: Our goal was to forecast the global burden of Alzheimer's disease and evaluate the potential impact of interventions that delay disease onset or progression.
Methods: A stochastic, multistate model was used in conjunction with United Nations worldwide population forecasts and data from epidemiological studies of the risks of Alzheimer's disease.
Results: In 2006, the worldwide prevalence of Alzheimer's disease was 26.6 million. By 2050, the prevalence will quadruple, by which time 1 in 85 persons worldwide will be living with the disease. We estimate about 43% of prevalent cases need a high level of care, equivalent to that of a nursing home. If interventions could delay both disease onset and progression by a modest 1 year, there would be nearly 9.2 million fewer cases of the disease in 2050, with nearly the entire decline attributable to decreases in persons needing a high level of care.
Conclusions: We face a looming global epidemic of Alzheimer's disease as the world's population ages. Modest advances in therapeutic and preventive strategies that lead to even small delays in the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease can significantly reduce the global burden of this disease.