Report from OECD shows countries are failing to diagnose dementia

Report from OECD shows countries are failing to diagnose dementia

12 June 2018

OECD Dementia report shows countries are failing to diagnose dementia, many primary care doctors lack skills to make effective diagnosis

  • Every 3 Seconds someone develops dementia – but most people with dementia do not receive a diagnosis or support
  • Dementia became a trillion-dollar disease in 2018
  • Fewer than 40% of OECD countries are able to estimate diagnosis rates nationally
  • We need an innovative approach to labour laws to better support dementia carers


OECD countries are failing to adequately diagnose dementia, according to a hard-hitting report out today from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and Alzheimer’s Disease International (a Global Alzheimer’s & Dementia Action Alliance Steering Committee member).

The report, Care needed: Improving the lives of people with dementia, released Tuesday, 12 June 2018 at an event organised by the OECD and ADI in London and attended by GADAA, finds that diagnosis rates for dementia are low across the OECD and efforts to expand diagnosis are often aimed at physicians underprepared to handle the job.

Fewer than 40% of OECD countries are able to estimate diagnosis rates nationally, and only two countries (the United Kingdom and Denmark) have set specific targets to improve diagnosis rates. Primary care serves as the first point of contact for people concerned about memory problems in 25 OECD countries. However, physicians average just 12 hours of dementia training during medical school and primary care doctors correctly identify only around 50-75% of dementia cases.

The joint OECD and ADI event brought together experts, practitioners, people living with dementia, carers and policymakers to discuss how the quality of care for people with dementia can be improved, and how health systems today can better prepare to tackle dementia in the coming years. The report presents an exhaustive look at what OECD countries have done to improve care for people with dementia across the pathway of the condition.

Paola Barbarino, CEO of ADI, says, “Someone develops dementia every three seconds, yet most people with dementia do not receive a timely diagnosis or support. This report delves, with great precision, into why healthcare systems are not prepared to address the dementia epidemic. This needs to be addressed urgently.

“There are also many opportunities so far unexplored, for example to enhance labour laws; a change that could greatly improve the flexibility and support for millions of workers who face pressure while caring for a person with dementia and for those with the condition that are still able to work and be included. ADI has already started some work in this direction and we are intending to explore this route further.”

As populations continue to age, the prevalence of dementia in OECD countries is expected to double to 41 million by 2050, and globally to 152 million by 2050. In the absence of a treatment or a cure for dementia, the pressures on health and social care are set to rise. Improving the lives of people with dementia is not only as important goal in itself, but it is also important because failure to do so will significantly drive the cost of care up.

Dementia is one of the greatest health and social care challenges for the 21st century. In recent years, many OECD countries have begun to focus on how to improve the quality of care that people with dementia receive. Yet despite progress, significant gaps remain in access and quality of services for people living with dementia.

Glenn Rees, Chair of ADI says, “This new report from OECD is invaluable in identifying issues that need to be addressed by governments if people with dementia are to live in the community without stigma and with access to activities we all enjoy. To become a reality, there needs to be a greater prioritisation of home and community care and for the coordinated delivery of services to meet the needs of people with dementia and their carers. This should include post-diagnostic support as well as rehabilitation.”

Dementia is a global health and social care priority that must be addressed now.

Governments and international civil society actors around the world must now get behind this global care challenge and unite for a everyone affected by dementia receives a diagnosis and sufficient care support.

Join the Global Alzheimer’s & Dementia Action Alliance: