Understanding Dementia Through Key Statistics

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated May 27, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

While many older people can expect to experience a slight, gradual decline in cognitive function, 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. A review of the facts and figures on dementia reveals that it is a serious public health concern that affects people in varied communities around the world. Read on to learn more about it and to familiarize yourself with key statistics about the prevalence of Alzheimer's or other dementias worldwide.

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 in every patient journey. However, in general, common symptoms of dementia include:

  • Memory loss

  • Trouble with complex decision-making

  • Language problems

  • Difficulty with reasoning and judgment

  • A shortened attention span

Dementia care can provide individuals with the support they may need as they address these symptoms. An individual with dementia will often have a care team, which may include a primary care provider, neurologist, caregiver, and nurse. It may also include professionals who can provide mental health care, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor. While there is currently no cure for dementia, clinical trials are continually being conducted to develop treatments that will alleviate symptoms and extend the lives of people with neurodegenerative disorders. 


The National Institute on Aging identifies the 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 health care providers to ask about testing and, if necessary, an early intervention treatment plan since MCIs may progress from mild dementia to more severe forms in some cases.

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that does not presently have a cure (though medical breakthroughs have been made), 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 living 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 to note

Less common forms of dementia include:

  • Lewy body dementia, which is caused by abnormal clumps of proteins in the brain. People with dementia with Lewy bodies typically experience 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, such as Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.


Risk factors

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

  • Age (as dementia primarily affects older people)

  • Genetics/family history of dementia

  • Smoking

  • Excessive alcohol use

  • An existing mild cognitive impairment

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

To evaluate an individual for dementia, a primary care 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, underlying biology, or medication interactions. The process may also include blood tests, brain scans, or other diagnostic methods and medical care to determine the cause of symptoms. 


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

  • 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. 

  • Alzheimer's dementia is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the total estimated societal cost of dementia in 2019 was $1.3 trillion, and the total economic impact of dementia is expected to exceed $2.8 trillion by 2030. The WHO laid out a global action plan for the public health response to dementia in response, and while the global status report indicates some progress is being made, there is more work to be done.

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

  • Globally, approximately there are 55 million people living with dementia. 60% of people with dementia 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.

  • In 2023, total payments for health care, long-term care, and hospice services for people aged 65 and older with dementia were estimated to be $345 billion.

  • Research shows that most nursing homes have residents living with dementia, ranging from under 10% to over 90% of total residents, with the majority providing nursing home care for between 31% and 80%.

  • According to a special report from the Alzheimer's Association, unpaid caregivers provided an estimated 18 billion hours of care valued at $339.5 billion in 2022. 

  • While young onset dementia is possible, 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%

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Are you concerned that you or someone you love may have dementia?

Strategies for prevention worldwide

While virtually every individual’s brain and well-being 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, positively affect memory, and reduce the incidence and 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. Both high blood pressure and high blood sugar can negatively impact cognitive function and cause memory problems. 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). Unpaid caregiving can be challenging, so therapy can also be useful for family members who are responsible for undertaking dementia care for one of their loved ones. 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 the 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. If you or someone you love is showing signs of dementia, know that you do not have to navigate this concern alone. You can reach out to a licensed online therapist at BetterHelp to learn coping strategies, reach the most up-to-date research studies and clinical trials, and gain empathetic support.
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