Fighting Dementia With Education in Developing Countries

Fighting Dementia
In its most recent report, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) observed that the majority of individuals fighting dementia or other related illnesses come from low-to-middle income countries. These findings draw interesting conclusions.

Though there is no known cure for the infirmity, one respected method for fighting dementia is education. However, poorer countries often struggle to provide education to their citizens.

Professor Carol Brayne of the University of Cambridge recently led a study to analyze the relationship between the level of one’s education and the probability of developing forms of dementia.

She and her team discovered from a sizeable sample that for every additional year of exposure to education, an individual reduces his or her probability of developing dementia by 11 percent.

The researchers surmised that an educated person’s brain can better handle changes than one who is not as educated.

The brain’s pathology does not seem to change between educated and uneducated people. Instead, it merely affects their ability to cope with the onset of dementia’s effects.

This discovery provides hope for many, but it also presents a problem. Individuals who grow up in lower income countries often struggle to acquire a primary education and basic literacy.

One recent statistic states that in developing nations, one in four adolescents have trouble reading or even spelling their name in their native tongue.

The reality of illiteracy provides an ongoing series of issues for an individual during his or her lifetime. Unfortunately, the severity of these issues augments as the body begins to grow old.

In addition to the loss of physical strength and a weakening immune system, these individuals may also have a higher chance of developing dementia.

Mere decades ago, this issue was not as prevalent due to relatively low life expectancies. However, with advances in treatments for transferable diseases and an increase in government subsidies for the elderly, individuals are living longer.

As a result, longer lifespans have sparked a rapid growth in the elderly demographic. This growth parallels the rising number of dementia cases.

In addition to being a horribly debilitating disease, fighting dementia is expensive.

ADI projects that by 2018, dementia will have an annual global cost of $1 trillion. By 2030, it will be double that figure.

A growing majority of individuals with dementia live in areas of the world lacking in easily accessible health care. Thus, a sizable proportion of the financial burden will fall on the depleted social services of their developing country.

By providing for those who have acquired the disease, developing countries will likely have to cut back on other forms of public funding. Ironically, one of those cuts could be in public education, one of the keys to preventing dementia’s development.

With this in mind, the ADI recommends that countries find more economically efficient ways to provide for dementia patients. Nations should also ramp up their already stellar efforts to provide education for all.

Professor Brayne summarized her study simply: “Education is known to be good for population health and equity. This study provides strong support for investment in early life factors which should have an impact on society and the whole lifespan. This is hugely relevant to policy decisions about the importance of resource allocation between health and education.”

Preston Rust

Photo: Pixabay