Analysis

Worldwide research finds dementia affects women more than men

Women are much more likely to be affected by dementia than men, according to a global report

Women are much more likely to be affected by dementia than men, according to a global report.

The Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) report (Erol et al 2015) is an overview of worldwide research that shows how most people living with the disease and those most at risk of developing it are women. Most carers and healthcare professionals are also women it states.

The report highlights the need for a broader, evidence-based approach to female-targeted dementia health programmes in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), where female-led family caring remains the predominant care model.

Socio-economic challenges

ADI estimates that by 2050, 71% of the 135 million people with dementia will live in LMICs, and of these, most of them will be cared for at home, most likely by a female relative. The report outlines the numerous socio-economic and domestic challenges facing women living in LMICs and suggests that women all over the world are much less likely to access help and support than their male counterparts.

The report also highlights the experiences of female caregiving in high-income countries, and calls on policy makers to integrate better support systems for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex females.

Report co-author Dawn Brooker says: ‘The reality is that more women live with dementia, more women are family carers and more women make up the health and social care workforce. Dementia initiatives will affect women differently from men and all policy makers need to be aware of this.’

Increasing prevalence

Professor Brooker, director of the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester, adds: ‘This report underlines the fact that the increasing prevalence of dementia worldwide will have a significant impact on women worldwide and needs to be recognised at a family, community and policy level.’

ADI is urging all countries to acknowledge and address the disproportionate effect of dementia on women, and to provide tailored information and support to better enable women to provide care and to feel cared for themselves.

In the UK, two thirds of people with dementia are women. It is the leading cause of death among UK women, accounting for 12% of deaths in 2013, more than heart disease, stroke or the most common forms of cancer.

No partner

Women are living longer than men so may not have a partner to care for them. The report identifies that in England and Wales, 60% of women aged over 75 are widowed compared with 29% of men. Women also provide the lion’s share of informal care for relatives with dementia in the UK.

Head of policy and public affairs at Alzheimer’s Society George McNamara says: ‘The role reversal from daughter to carer can pose real emotional and practical challenges for families. Government, business and wider society must ensure that women carers have personalised practical and psychological support, understanding employers and a supportive community in order to balance their responsibilities and have a good quality of life.’

Reference

Erol R, Brooker D, Peel E (2015) Women and Dementia: A Global Research Review. Alzheimer’s Disease International, London.

 

 

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