Early-onset dementia is becoming increasingly common, according to a study by researchers at Bournemouth University.
People in their late 40s are now regularly diagnosed with the disease, and the researchers behind the study believe that environmental factors are partly to blame. They believe that pollution is a factor.
The study also found that death rates from dementia are on the rise, with deaths in those over 75 very nearly doubling. The illness is disproportionately prevalent in Western countries in people aged 45 to 74, and women are usually more at risk.
Colin Pritchard, a researcher at Bournemouth University, told The Times:
‘The rate of increase in such a short time suggests a silent or even a “hidden” epidemic, in which environmental factors must play a major part, not just ageing.
‘The environmental changes in the last 20 years have seen increases in the human environment of petro-chemicals – air transport, quadrupling of motorvehicles, insecticides and rises in background electro-magnetic field, and so on … it is not that we want to stop the modern world, but rather make it safer.’
Dementia is an overall term that describes a range of symptoms associated with cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 per cent of cases, and there are encouraging signs that new drugs under development are able to slow the disease.