UAE to see second-highest percentage increase in dementia cases globally

Health specialists say up to 40 per cent of dementia cases could be prevented or delayed if exposure to 12 known risk factors are eliminated

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Waheed Abbas

Published: Sun 9 Jan 2022, 10:19 AM

The UAE and other Gulf countries will see the highest increases in the number of people living with dementia over the next 30 years worldwide, according to a new study released by the Lancet Public Health.

It is forecasted that the UAE will see an increase of 1,795 per cent with people suffering from dementia by 2050, while neighbouring Gulf countries, such as Qatar and Bahrain, will also see a very high increase in dementia cases of 1,926 per cent and 1,084 per cent, respectively.

According to World Health Organisation, more than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.

Dementia is a syndrome in which there is deterioration in cognitive function beyond what might be expected from the usual consequences of biological ageing. Although dementia mainly affects older people, it is not an inevitable consequence of ageing.

There are several types of dementia and the most known and also the most common is Alzheimer’s dementia, which makes up 70 per cent of the cases.

Dr Nizar Hojaili, consultant psychiatry, CMC Dubai, said with the increasing life expectancy in the UAE, the population is growing therefore the cases of Alzheimer’s Dementia will increase.

“The second most common type of dementia is called vascular dementia accounting for nearly 20 per cent of cases. These result from clots in the brain vessels (strokes) or hypertensive infarction of smaller vessels. Hence, hypertension, Diabetes, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle and high blood levels of certain lipids are risk factors for this kind of dementia. Their onset is often in the age of 60 and 70 years old,” said Dr Hojaili.

He said unfortunately there is no disease-modifying medication available yet.

However, some medications used as first-line treatment in Alzheimer’s dementia give some symptomatic benefits.

A Lancet Commission had suggested that up to 40 per cent of dementia cases could be prevented or delayed if exposure to 12 known risk factors were eliminated - low education, high blood pressure, hearing impairment, smoking, midlife obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, social isolation, excessive alcohol consumption, head injury, and air pollution.

Dr Hojaili advised that some of the core symptoms of dementia are induced by reversible conditions like depression, nutrient deficiencies (e.g., vitamin B12) and hormones level abnormalities (e.g., thyroid).

“They can also be a presentation of medical conditions (e.g., infection, constipation in the elderly, mental disorders) or a side effect of medications like hypnotics or anaesthetics (e.g., delirium) which also could be reversed. Therefore, it is essential to seek advice from a specialist doctor (neurologist or psychiatrist) if you present with cognitive or behavioural changes,” he added.


The study estimated that dementia cases will rise by 367 per cent in the Middle East region, one of the highest, from three million in 2019 to 14 million by 2050.

The Global Burden of Disease study by the Lancet estimated that the number of adults aged 40 years and older living with dementia worldwide is expected to nearly triple, from an estimated 57 million in 2019 to 153 million in 2050, due primarily to population growth and population ageing.

Countries with the highest percentage change in number of dementia cases from 2019-2050:

CountryPercentage increase
Qatar 1,926
UAE 1,795
Bahrain 1,084
Oman 943
Saudi Arabia 898
Kuwait 850
Iraq 559
Maldives 554
Jordan 522
Guinea 498

Source: The Lancet Public Health.

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