The number of people diagnosed with early-onset dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease has risen sharply over the past few years, according to data from Blue Cross — and it has significantly affected millennials.
Millennials, also called Generation Y, are people born between 1981 and 1996, putting them between the ages of 24 to 39 currently. Generation X consists of people born between 1965 and 1980, putting them between the ages of 40 and 55. Xennials are part of a micro-generation that overlaps with Gen X and Gen Y, and were born between 1977 and 1983, putting them at ages 36 to 43 currently.
The report looked at commercially-insured Americans with early-onset dementia or early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease who received health insurance through their employer or in the individual market.
The study is a part of The Health of America Report® series, which is a collaboration between Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) and Blue Health Intelligence® (BHI®). The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) offered additional data analysis.
In 2017, roughly 131,000 Americans between the ages of 30 and 64 were diagnosed with either early-onset dementia or early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Rates of diagnosis in 2013 were 4.2 people per 10,000 adults, and rates in 2017 leapt up to 12.6 people per 10,000 adults. That’s a whopping 200% increase in diagnosis rates for that age group in only a few years.
From 2013 to 2017, diagnosis rates for both conditions increased:
- 373% among 30- to 44-year-olds (19,000 people)
- 311% among 45- to 54-year-olds (34,000 people)
- 143% among 55- to 64-year-olds (78,000 people)
The average patient’s age at diagnosis was 49. Rates of diagnosis were higher in the East, the South, and areas of the Midwest. Women were most often diagnosed and made up 58% of those diagnosed.
Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Only
Over 37,000 Americans between the ages of 30 to 64 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2017. This accounts for an 131% surge from 2013.
From 2013 to 2017, diagnosis rates for early-onset Alzheimer’s increased:
- 407% among 30- to 44-year-olds
- 242% among 45- to 54-year-olds
- 90% among 55- to 64-year-olds
There’s no definitive test for early-onset dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, so patients who potentially have symptoms of either one go through various types of testing. However, this study found that 86% of people who were eventually diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease had undergone brain imaging the year before, 57% had filled an antidepressant medication the year before, and 40% of people who were ultimately diagnosed with Alzheimer’s were initially diagnosed with early-onset dementia, cognitive changes, or behavioral changes during the year before.
“The results of this report are concerning, especially the increase in early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease among younger people,” said Dr. Richard Snyder, chief medical officer and executive vice president of Facilitated Health Networks for Independence Blue Cross, in a statement.
“While the underlying cause is not clear, advances in technology are certainly allowing for earlier and more definitive diagnosis. Regardless, those who develop dementia or Alzheimer’s at an early age will likely require caregiving, either from family members or healthcare providers. The time, cost and impact on families can be significant and can require additional support as these diseases progress.”
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.