Dementia a numbers game

Crunching the real numbers behind the ageing disease of dementia will lay the foundation for Australia’s future treatment approaches.

A team of biostatisticians from The University of Queensland and other Australian universities have been granted $2 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to improve Australia’s dementia statistics.

UQ Professor of Biostatistics Annette Dobson said the data would ensure health resources were primed to meet the needs of an ageing population.

“Currently, we don’t have an accurate estimate of the number of people in Australia who have dementia,” Professor Dobson said.

“The most important factor relating to dementia is increasing age. As the population ages, we expect the number of people with dementia to rise.

“However, what we are seeing is a decrease in the risk factors associated with dementia, such as cardiovascular diseases, smoking and hypertension.

“We need to find out if these factors might cause the incidence rate of dementia – the number of new cases per 1000 older people – to decline.”

Dementia and treatment services are thought to exceed $15 billion every year, but little is known about the true cost of the condition.

“It’s important to get a good grip on these numbers to know if the trends are going up or down,” Professor Dobson said.

“These figures have enormous implications on the services provided by the healthcare and aged care systems.”

Professor Dobson and her team will use data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to ensure the numbers are valid, reliable and most importantly – actionable.

“This will have a long-term benefit because these organisations are relied on as official sources and the results from our research will feed directly into them,” she said.

“This two-year project represents an important step in collaborative research between the University and these two health organisations.”

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