BackgroundThe burden of non-communicable diseases is growing, particularly in developing countries. The greatest economic burden is due to dementia, the prevalence of which is rising with increasing longevity. In Africa, where the rate of increase of elderly persons is the fastest in the world, dementia is normally dismissed as a part of normal ageing. The lack of awareness means that many patients are suffering undiagnosed. This review aims to assess the information on the prevalence of dementia in Africa in order to estimate the current burden.
MethodsA parallel search of Medline, EMBASE and Global Health limited to post-1980 found only 10 relevant studies. Data on prevalence and risk factors were extracted and analysed. We modelled the available information and used the UN population figures for Africa to determine the age-specific and overall burden of dementia.
ResultsThe overall prevalence of dementia in adults older than 50 years in Africa was estimated to be about 2.4%, which translates to 2.76 million people living with a disease in 2010. About 2.10 millions of them live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prevalence was the highest among females aged 80 and over (19.7%) and there was little variation between regions. Alzheimer disease was the most prevalent cause of dementia (57.1%) followed by vascular dementia (26.9%). The main risk factors were increasing age, female sex and cardiovascular disease.
ConclusionsInformation on dementia prevalence in Africa is very limited. Further research will not only provide a more reliable estimate of prevalence, and consequently the burden of disease, but will also raise awareness of the problem. This is critical in promoting help-seeking behaviour and generating the political commitment to make dementia a public health priority in Africa.