Understanding Dementia Through Key Statistics

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated March 28, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

While many people can expect to experience a slight, gradual decline in cognitive speed or abilities as they age, certain mental health conditions can cause more rapid changes that are significant enough to interfere with daily life. Dementia refers to a category of such conditions. Read on to learn more about it and to familiarize yourself with key statistics.

Are You Concerned That You Or Someone You Love May Have Dementia?

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a class of disorders characterized by a progressive loss of intellectual functioning due to brain disease.

Different types of dementia may affect different areas of the brain, which is why symptoms can vary. However, in general, common effects of dementia include:

  • Memory loss

  • Trouble with complex decision making

  • Language problems

  • Difficulty with reasoning and judgment

  • A shortened attention span

Types Of Dementia

The National Institute on Aging identifies three most common forms of dementia, along with a few lesser-known manifestations. Here’s a brief overview of these main types.

Mild Cognitive Impairment

If the typical fuzzy memory associated with aging progresses to the point where it’s persistent and begins to affect your daily life, you may have a mild cognitive impairment (MCI). In this case, it’s typically best to speak to your doctor to ask about testing and, if necessary, an early intervention treatment plan since MCIs may progress to more severe forms of dementia in some cases.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. It’s a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that does not presently have a cure, and it often begins with an MCI. This condition usually targets the parts of the brain associated with language, memory, and thought.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is the second-leading cause of cognitive impairment worldwide, according to a recent study. People with vascular dementia may experience progressive symptoms—such as difficulty concentrating, confusion and agitation, and night wandering—as blood, nutrients, and oxygen flow to the brain is reduced due to a hardening of the veins. 

Other Forms Of Dementia

Less common forms of dementia include:

  • Lewy body dementia, which is caused by abnormal clumps of proteins in the brain. It’s typically characterized by symptoms like acting out dreams during sleep, visual hallucinations, difficulty focusing, tremors, and uncoordinated movement. 

  • Frontotemporal dementia is caused by a breakdown of the connections between nerve cells and the frontal and temporal lobes, which are typically related to behavior, language, and personality. 

  • Mixed dementia refers to when an individual experiences a combination of dementia causes and symptoms.

Risk Factors For Dementia

A person with certain risk factors may be more likely to develop some form of dementia. Key risk factors include:

  • Age

  • Genetics/a family history of dementia

  • Smoking

  • Excessive alcohol use

  • An existing mild cognitive impairment

  • The presence of other medical conditions, such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, Huntington’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s disease, leukoencephalopathies, or a late-stage syphilis infection

To evaluate an individual for dementia, a physician will typically take a thorough medical history and overall health evaluation in order to eliminate other potential causes of symptoms such as genetic conditions or medication interactions. The process may also include blood tests, brain scans, or other diagnostic methods to determine the cause of symptoms. 

Key Statistics About Dementia

Understanding statistics about diseases that fall under the category of dementia can help raise awareness about its risk factors, prevention, and resources. 

  • According to the 2020 US Census, 11.3% of the population has an MCI or Alzheimer’s disease. This percentage is expected to increase to 13.85% by 2060.

  • Approximately one-third of the people diagnosed with an MCI due to Alzheimer’s are likely to develop dementia within five years. 

  • According to a survey, 82% of Americans are unfamiliar with what a mild cognitive impairment is, and more than half thought the symptoms sounded like “normal aging”.

  • Women have a 37% chance of developing dementia during their lifetime, while men have a 24% chance. 

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the total estimated societal cost of dementia in 2019 was $1.3 trillion, with totals expected to exceed $2.8 trillion by 2030.

  • According to a survey, 42% of Americans worry about developing dementia

  • Globally, approximately 55 million people have dementia. 60% of them live in low- and middle-income countries, and 73% are aged 75 or older. Worldwide, the number of dementia patients is projected to grow to 139 million by 2050.

  • Per the American Academy of Neurology, MCIs and dementia become more prevalent with age. Recent research shows the following incidences of MCIs and dementia by age group:

    • 65 to 69: 8%

    • 75 to 79: 15%

    • 80 to 84: 25%

    • 85 and older: 37%

Are You Concerned That You Or Someone You Love May Have Dementia?

Strategies For Preventing Dementia

While virtually every individual’s brain will change as they age, dementia isn’t necessarily an inevitable part of this process according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). They report that up to 40% of dementia cases could potentially be prevented or delayed. Current research suggests that keeping your brain limber with regular mental and intellectual stimulation can help prevent or delay many dementia symptoms and reduce the risk of cognitive decline overall.

Other common lifestyle changes recommended for preserving brain health include maintaining a healthy blood pressure, getting regular physical activity, balancing blood sugar, and getting proper sleep. Older adults are also encouraged to track changes in their cognitive skills and memory by visiting their healthcare provider for a checkup every six to 12 months. 

How Therapy Can Help 

Research suggests that those who are experiencing distress or anxiety as a result of having been diagnosed with an MCI or dementia can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Those who are looking to keep their brain in good health to prevent future cognitive impairment may also find therapy to be a stimulating, useful activity. For those who feel intimidated at the prospect of meeting with a therapist in person or who are unable to travel to and from appointments, virtual therapy may be an option to consider. 

A 2021 study examined how effective online CBT can be for older adults with an MCI. More than half of participants reported that virtual treatment was a viable option, and that their ability to seek treatment from home was a “tremendous boost”. If you’re interested in trying this therapy format, a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp is an option to consider. You can get matched with a licensed therapist with whom you can meet via phone, video call, and/or online chat, all from the comfort of home. 


Rates of dementia are projected to increase in the general population over time. Familiarizing yourself with common symptoms, risk factors, and statistics related to this category of diseases may help you recognize signs of cognitive decline and seek appropriate support, or take measures to prevent the development of such a condition.

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