Memory disorders are more prevalent than previously estimated – in 2040, the number of people with a memory disorder will be 250,000

Publication date 6.3.2024 13.00
Press release

New research results based on national register data show that diagnoses for memory disorders each year are significantly more common than previously estimated.

A new study shows that approximately 23,000 people get diagnosed with a memory disorder in Finland every year. It has previously been estimated that there would be around 14,500 patients annually. 

In 2021, approximately 151,000 Finns had a diagnosed memory disorder. Most of them were aged 85 or over.

"When examining the results, it should be noted that the register data only covers the diseases diagnosed, and thus probably underestimate the actual number of people with memory disorders," says Hanna-Maria Roitto, Medical Specialist at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

In 2040, there will be as many as 247,000 people with memory disorders if the prevalence of memory disorders remains at the level of 2021 and the number of older people increases in accordance with Statistics Finland's population forecast. According to this estimate, the number of people with memory disorders will increase by 64 per cent over the next few decades.

"The increase in the total number of people with memory disorders in Finland is due to the ageing population," Roitto says. 

Previous estimates of the prevalence of memory disorders in Finland have been based on European population studies and Finnish studies from the 1980s and 1990s. In the new study, the number of patients with memory disorders was examined based on the nationwide health and social care registers (Hilmo) and the registers of medicine purchases reimbursed by Kela health insurance. 

Significant differences between wellbeing services counties in the number of memory disorders

There are significant differences between wellbeing services counties in the number of people with memory disorders. The greatest morbidity level are found in Kainuu (5,368/100,000 inhabitants) and Kymenlaakso (5,170/100,000), and the lowest in Åland (1,414/100,000). 

"More memory disorders are detected in areas where the population is older. However, the demographic structure alone does not explain the differences. The figures may be influenced by regional resources and treatment practices as well as the prevalence of risk factors for memory disorders in the area", says Hanna-Maria Roitto.

Up-to-date knowledge of the number of people with memory disorders is important for developing measures that promote wellbeing and health.

"Memory disorders and symptoms related to them are common among older people who receive regular services, and they lead to many difficulties in everyday activities," says Roitto.

The study was carried out as part of the National Health Index project. The Memory Disorder Index is part of the National Health Index collection of morbidity indicators, the data of which will be updated annually from now on. The National Health Index dataset covers several indicators of morbidity and disability of the population. The index data is produced jointly by THL, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela), the Finnish Centre for Pensions and Statistics Finland.

Further information

Indicator data in Sotkanet – morbidity index and disease group-specific subindices

National Health Index

Hanna-Maria Roitto
Docent, Medical Specialist
THL, HUS, University of Helsinki
Tel. +358 29 524 8393
Email: [email protected]

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