Memory disorders

Memory disorders: Exercising protects also the brain.Exercising protects also the brain.

Progressive memory disorders (dementia) pose a great challenge for public health and national economy. As the population ages, the number of people living with memory disorders increases. Memory disorders are a challenge also at individual level for both patients and their families.

Diseases which cause decline in memory and other cognitive functions are called memory disorders, and they are often referred to as dementia. Dementia is not a single disease, but rather a late stage of progressive memory disorder when cognitive functions are severely impaired and are seriously affecting abilities of daily living.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common progressive memory disorder, followed by memory disorder associated with cerebrovascular disease. Other diseases causing memory disorders include e.g. Lewy Body disease, dementia associated with Parkinson's disease, and frontotemporal lobar degenerations. In older age groups, memory disorders often have characteristics of both Alzheimer's disease and cerebrovascular disease.

High age strongly increases the risk of cognitive decline. Still the majority of people never develop dementia. Some 5 % of those aged from 65 to 75 years, around 10 % of those aged from 74 to 84 and about a third of the over 85 year olds have moderate to severe dementia in Finland.

The prevalence of memory disorders

Globally, the number of people with memory disorders is growing rapidly. In 2015, there were already nearly 50 million people with memory disorders in the world, and the number is estimated to double over the next twenty years.
Based on national register data, there were a total of approximately 150,000 persons with memory disorders in Finland in 2021. In addition, some people, especially those with early-stage memory disease, do not have a diagnosis or medication, so the total number of people with memory disorders is likely to be somewhat higher. Every year, an average of 23,000 people in Finland are diagnosed with new memory disorders.
As people live longer and longer, the number of people with memory disorders is increasing strongly. In 2040, it is estimated that there will be around 247,000 people with memory disorders in Finland, provided that the age-group-specific morbidity rate remains as it is today. In addition to population ageing, the prevalence of memory disorders is affected by factors such as the prevalence of risk factors for memory disorders and the educational level of the population. The development of diagnostics for memory disorders makes it possible to detect the disease at an early stage, which contributes to an increase in the number of diagnosed cases.
There are significant differences in the number of people with memory disorders between wellbeing services counties. More memory disorders are found in areas where the population is older. However, the demographics alone do not explain the differences. The figures may be influenced by, for example, the population's awareness of memory disorders, regional resources and treatment practices, and the prevalence of risk factors for memory disorders in the region. Information on regional differences in memory disease morbidity is available as part of the National Health Index.

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

The cost of memory disorders

The increasing number of memory disorders increases social welfare and health care expenditure. The expenses incurred by memory disorders depend on disease stage, with persons having more severe dementia needing more social and health care services. It has been estimated that 85% of the costs incurred by memory disorders are caused by institutional care. In Northern Europe, the direct and indirect treatment costs of one person living with memory disorder were on average EUR 36,000 in 2008.

In Finland, it has been estimated that direct costs for dementia care are in total around one billion euros annually and even double if indirect costs are taken into account. The total estimated worldwide cost of dementia is around a trillion US dollars.

Further information