Alzheimer’s Disease: Facts & Figures

  • Fact Sheet
Published on:
A series of brain scans.

It is estimated that nearly 500,000 new cases of Alzheimer's disease will be diagnosed this year in the United States. Every 3 seconds, someone in the world develops dementia. 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.

Age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

  • The percentage of people with Alzheimer's increases with age: 5% of people age 65 to 74, 13% of people age 75-84, and 33% of people age 85 and older have Alzheimer's dementia.21

Alzheimer's is a growing epidemic.

  • An estimated 6.5 million Americans older than 65 have Alzheimer's disease. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's and dementia is projected to reach 12.7 million, unless scientists develop new approaches to prevent or cure it.1, 2 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.1

  • Almost 10% of U.S. adults age 65 and older have dementia, while another 22% have mild cognitive impairment. There is a disproportionate burden of dementia and mild cognitive impairment among older Black and Hispanic adults and those with lower levels of education.23

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

  • Every 65 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, at least 55 million people are believed to be living with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias.4 According to the United Nations, that is more than the population of Colombia.5 If breakthroughs are not discovered, this number will almost double every 20 years, reaching 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050.4

  • In the time it takes to read this sentence out loud, another person somewhere in the world has been diagnosed with dementia.6 Every 3 seconds, someone in the world develops dementia.4

  • One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer's or related dementia.21

In the U.S., Blacks and Hispanics are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s than non-Hispanic whites.

  • Nearly 19% of Blacks and 14% of Hispanics age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s, compared with 10 percent of white older adults.21

  • Despite their higher rates of developing Alzheimer's, Blacks and Hispanics are less likely than whites to be diagnosed with the condition.22

  • Chronic conditions that are associated with higher dementia risk, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic populations, may partially explain the elevated risk of dementia among Black and Hispanic populations.21

The overall economic impact is staggering.

  • Worldwide dementia care is estimated to cost upwards of US$1 trillion.4 According to the World Bank, that’s roughly the same as the gross domestic product of Pakistan in 2017. According to public financial statements, that is more than the 2017 profits of Apple, J.P Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway combined.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 $290 billion in 2018 to more than $1.1 trillion in 2050 (in 2019 dollars).1 Annual healthcare spending averages $4,500 more for patients with Alzheimer’s than similar patients.8,9

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.

  • Each year, more than 16 million Americans, usually family and friends, provide unpaid care for someone with Alzheimer's disease and dementias.10 According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics11, that would be just shy of a tenth of the entire US workforce. In 2017, these people provided an estimated 16 billion hours of unpaid care, a contribution valued at more than $270 billion.21 This would be about 46% of Walmart’s total revenue in 2017 ($500.3 billion)12 and 10 times the total revenue of McDonald's in 2017 ($22.8 billion).13

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.14

  • 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.15

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

  • Due to the COVID pandemic, Alzheimer's disease dropped from the sixth to the seventh-leading cause of death across all ages in the United States, despite a 10.5% increase in the number of Alzheimer's deaths from 2019 to 2020. For those 65 and older, it is the seventh-leading cause of death.16

  • In 2020, COVID-19 contributed to a 17% increase in Alzheimer's and dementia deaths.21 24% of those 85 and older who died from COVID had dementia listed as a common cause of death.

  • Between 2000 and 2016, deaths attributed to Alzheimer's disease increased 139%, while those attributed to the number one cause of death-heart disease-decreased 6%.16 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 currently underreported as the underlying cause of death—there is a difference between dying with Alzheimer's and death from Alzheimer's17 (though the degree of underreporting varies).18

  • Deaths from all cases of dementia are more than twice as high as the number of Alzheimer’s disease deaths alone.21

  • A recent study found the Alzheimer's mortality rate to be five to six times higher than official estimates, suggesting that Alzheimer's may be responsible for more than 500,000 annual deaths in the United States.19 If applied to the general population, these findings would make Alzheimer's the third leading (rather than seventh) cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer.

    Despite the recent increases in funding for Alzheimer’s disease, the United States government could spend more to respond to this growing epidemic.
    For example, NIH's FY18 funding for cancer research is roughly 2.75 times the level spent on Alzheimer's disease research.20a, b

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