Fact Sheet

Alzheimer’s Disease: Facts & Figures

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Every 66 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer's. It is estimated that nearly 500,000 new cases of Alzheimer's disease will be diagnosed this year. Get the facts about Alzheimer's disease—the most common form of dementia.

Quick Facts about Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's is not a normal part of aging.

  • Alzheimer's disease is an irreversible degeneration of the brain that causes disruptions in memory, cognition, personality, and other functions that eventually lead to death from complete brain failure.

Alzheimer's is a growing epidemic.

  • More than 5 million Americans now have Alzheimer's disease. By 2050, nearly 14 million (13.8 million) Americans over age 65 could be living with the disease, unless scientists develop new approaches to prevent or cure it.1 However, estimates based on high-range projections of population growth provided by the U.S. Census suggest that this number may be as high as 16 million.16

Each day, thousands of American families are forever changed by this disease.

  • Every 66 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer's. By mid-century, someone in America will develop the disease every 33 seconds.2 It is estimated that nearly 500,000 new cases of Alzheimer's disease will be diagnosed this year.3

Alzheimer's is on the rise throughout the world.

  • Worldwide, 46.8 million people are believed to be living with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias.4 By 2030, if breakthroughs are not discovered, we will see an increase to nearly 74.7 million.5  By 2050, rates could exceed 131.5 million.
  • Every 3.2 seconds, a new case of dementia occurs somewhere in the world.6

The overall economic impact is staggering.

  • If dementia care were a country's economy, it would be the world's 18th largest, ranking between Turkey and Indonesia. If it were a company, it would be the world's largest by annual revenue, exceeding Walmart (US$414 billion) and Exxon Mobil (US$311 billion).7

Alzheimer's is projected to cripple America's healthcare system.

  • Total payments for health care, long-term care, and hospice for people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are projected to increase from $259 billion in 2017 to more than $1 trillion in 2050 (in 2017 dollars).8 This dramatic rise includes a four-fold increase in government spending under Medicare and Medicaid and a nearly four-fold increase in out-of-pocket spending.8

People who have Alzheimer's disease need others to care for them, and many of those providing care are not paid for their time and services.

  • More than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for someone with Alzheimer's disease or dementias. Unpaid caregivers are usually immediate family members or other relatives and friends.9 In 2016, these people provided an estimated 18.2 billion hours of unpaid care, a contribution valued at more than $230.1 billion.10 This is nearly 48 percent of the net value of Walmart sales in 2014 ($482 billion)11 and nine times the total revenue of McDonald’s in 2014 ($27.4 billion).18

Unpaid caregivers need help.

  • Caring for a person with Alzheimer's or another dementia is often extremely difficult, and many family and other unpaid caregivers experience high levels of emotional stress and depression as a result.12
  • Caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease has been found to have a negative impact on the health, employment, income, and financial security of many caregivers.13

Alzheimer's is the only leading cause of death that is still on the rise.

  • Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death across all ages in the United States. For those 65 and older, it is the fifth-leading cause of death.
  • Between 2000 and 2014, deaths attributed to Alzheimer's disease increased 89%, while those attributed to the number one cause of death-heart disease-decreased 14%.17 This increase reflects changes in patterns of reporting deaths on death certificates over time as well as an increase in the actual number of deaths attributable to Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's disease is the only major cause of death that significantly increased from 2009 to 2010, while other major causes of death declined.14
  • Alzheimer’s disease is currently underreported as the underlying cause of death—there is a difference between dying with Alzheimer’s and death from Alzheimer’s.19
  • A recent study found the Alzheimer’s mortality rate to be five to six times higher than official estimates, suggesting that AD may be responsible for more than 500,000 annual deaths in the United States.20 If applied to the general population, these findings would make Alzheimer’s the third leading (rather than sixth) cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer.

The United States Government is not spending enough to respond to this growing epidemic.

  • National Institutes of Health FY17-estimated funding for HIV/AIDS research is 3.3 times the level of that for Alzheimer's disease research.
  • NIH's FY17 estimated funding for cancer research is 7 times the level spent for Alzheimer's disease research.15

For sources of these facts and figures, see our Sources for Alzheimer's Disease page. 

The information provided is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation and is not intended to constitute medical advice. It should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice; all medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy.

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