With approximately 29 percent of the population being over 65, Japan is the country with the world’s oldest population. This may increase the burden on public health, especially the increasing number of people with dementia.
A recent study by scientists from the University of Tokyo, Japan, created a model to predict how the condition and life expectancy will change in the country in the next 2 decades. The findings were published in the Lancet.
In this project, a newly-built microsimulation model was used to predict dementia rates in older people by 2043.
The authors used nationwide surveys, current cohort research, and death records to develop the model.
The data included many factors, including education levels, sex, age, and health indicators (self-reported health, daily function, depression, as well as the incidence of common chronic conditions).
In the studied period, it was noted that the total years that people had dementia are expected to drop to 1.4 from 2.2 in men and 3.9 from 4.7 in women.
This change would be explained because the model anticipated cognitive disability to start as people age.
Nevertheless, they also noticed that frailty rates would go up to 2.1 from 1.9 years in men and 4 from 3.7 years in women in all levels of education.
Another finding was that education, sex, and age play a role in dementia and frailty rates.
It was estimated that up to 30 percent of women over 75 years old without a high school degree would have dementia. The number of older women with a college degree is only 6.5 percent.
Researchers reached a conclusion that higher education is likely an important factor in the results of the model.
The findings would help public health officers to plan proper approaches and measures for preventing dementia.
It is believed that around 33 percent of dementia cases would be prevented by focusing on certain risk factors for developing dementia. These include air pollution, head injury, excessive consumption of alcohol, social isolation, diabetes, physical inactivity, depression, obesity, smoking, hearing problems, high blood pressure, and low levels of education.
Overall, the authors suggested that public health policies should deal with education disparities and sex in dementia to be well prepared for the aging population.
A drawback of this study is that the model did not include behavioral factors that may affect aging and health, such as diet, exercise, and smoking.
In addition, the results would not explain how and why education levels affect the prevalence of dementia.