brainscanWomen are much more likely to be affected by dementia than men and there is a need for more female-targeted dementia health programmes, according to international research.

A new report by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), which provides an overview of international research from all over the world, has found that majority of people living with the disease and those most at risk of developing dementia are women, and they also account for an overwhelming majority of caregivers and health professionals.

Women and Dementia: A global research review, highlights the need for a broader, evidence-based approach to female-targeted dementia health programmes in low and middle income countries (LMIC), where female-led family caring remains the predominant care model. 

ADI estimates that by 2050, 71% of the 135 million people with dementia will live in LMICs. The vast majority of these people will be cared for at home, most likely by a female relative. The report outlines the numerous socio-economic and domestic challenges facing women living in LMICs and suggests that women all over the world are much less likely to access help and support than their male counterparts.

The report also highlights the experiences of female caregiving in high income countries, and calls on policy makers to integrate better support systems for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex females.  

Two thirds of people with dementia in the UK are women and it is now the leading cause of death, accounting for 12.2% (31,850) of deaths in 2013, more than heart disease, stroke or the most common forms of cancer.

Women in the UK – whether they are wives, daughters or daughters-in-law – also provide the majority of informal care for relatives with dementia, which can have a significant impact on their psychological and physical health.    

In light of this research, ADI is urging all countries to acknowledge and address the disproportionate impact of dementia on women, and to provide tailored information provision and support to better enable women to provide care and to feel cared for themselves. 

Professor Dawn Brooker, director of the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester, and author of the report, commented: “The reality is that more women live with dementia, more women are family carers and more women make up the health and social care workforce. Dementia initiatives will impact on women differently from men and all policy makers need to be aware of this. This report underlines the fact that the increasing prevalence of dementia worldwide will have a significant impact on women worldwide and needs to be recognised at a family, community and policy level.”

Marc Wortmann, executive director of ADI, added: “This report demonstrates the growing need for governments across the world to acknowledge that the challenges faced by women affected by dementia are part of the wider scope of women’s issues that need addressing, especially in low and middle income countries. We must take action immediately to develop public health and care policies that support women in all aspects of their dementia journey, whether it is as a caregiver or as someone living with dementia themselves.”

The report was supported by grants from Red & Yellow Care and WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s.