SOURCE: Milken Institute

Milken Institute

March 02, 2016 08:00 ET

Dementia Exacts Heaviest Toll on Women

New Milken Institute Report Quantifies the Direct and Indirect Economic Effects of Cognitive Loss

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwired - March 02, 2016) - Dementia presents a pernicious gender-based health disparity in the United States, inflicting a disproportionate burden on women as both patients and caregivers. Of the 6.4 million Americans with dementia, women account for 4.2 million of them -- or two-thirds of the patient population. This has been attributed to the fact that women live longer than men and have higher incidences of chronic diseases that increase the risk of developing dementia. However, recent research suggests there may be biological pathways that lead to greater cognitive impairment in females. Women also make up the majority of informal caregivers, often as family members of dementia patients who need around-the-clock assistance with the most basic needs.

Given the rapid increase in the population of older Americans, the number of women with dementia and those serving as informal caregivers will escalate and cost the economy a cumulative $5.1 trillion (in 2012 dollars) through 2040. This is according to "The Price Women Pay for Dementia: Strategies to Ease Gender Disparity and Economic Costs," released today by the Milken Institute.

"Clearly, if we don't change the current trajectory by delaying the average age of dementia onset, slowing its progression and severity, and ultimately, finding a cure, the human and economic toll on women, their families and society will be immense," said Ross DeVol, the institute's chief research officer and an author of the report. "In addition to the financial incentive for narrowing gender disparities, there is a moral obligation to do so. Such a gender-related health disparity works to aggravate other economic disparities for women and impairs quality of life for all."

This report provides fact-based evidence of the economic burden of dementia on women by aggregating the effects on the health-care system, the labor market and living arrangements. "It exposes an insidious impact that is often overlooked or ignored: the gender disparities that women suffer as patients and caregivers, and the particularly intensive role of the dementia caregiver," said Sindhu Kubendran, a Milken Institute research analyst and an author of the report.

Quantifying dementia's effects on the health-care system, long-term support services and the labor market makes a case for increased awareness, funding, research and care. Ultimately, a cure must be found, but in the interim, it will take a concerted effort on various fronts to tackle the disease effectively. To that end, the report details five policy prescriptions:

  1. Widen access to health care
  2. Expand scope and flow of services
  3. Raise dementia awareness and expand caregiver training
  4. Provide support in the workplace
  5. Increase funding for Alzheimer's and dementia research

"As it stands, preexisting societal norms often result in women becoming the default caregivers who must grapple with insufficient support and the extraordinarily difficult demands of dementia care," said Kubendran.

The Price Women Pay for Dementia: Strategies to Ease Gender Disparity and Economic Costs is by Sindhu Kubendran, Ross DeVol and Anusuya Chatterjee, and can be found here:

About the Milken Institute
The Milken Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank determined to increase global prosperity by advancing collaborative solutions that widen access to capital, create jobs and improve health. It does this through independent, data-driven research, action-oriented meetings and meaningful policy initiatives.


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