| 16.2°C Dublin

Dementia cases set to treble by 2050

Cases of dementia will soar in the coming decades as life expectancy and medical care improve in poorer countries, according to the World Health Organisation.

Some 35.6m people were living with dementia in 2010, but that figure is set to double to 65.7m by 2030, the United Nations health agency said. In 2050, it expects dementia cases to treble to 115.4m.

"The numbers are already large and are increasing rather rapidly," said Dr Shekhar Saxena, the head of WHO's mental health division.

Most patients of dementia, a brain illness that affects memory and behaviour, are cared for by relatives who shoulder the bulk of the current estimated annual cost of £380bn.

And the cost is set to rise even faster than the number of cases, WHO said in its first substantial report on the issue.

"The catastrophic cost drives millions of households below the poverty line," said the agency's director-general, Margaret Chan.