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Dementia and stroke funds 'too low'

Published 14/04/2015

Research into dementia and stroke is underfunded, health experts claim
Research into dementia and stroke is underfunded, health experts claim

The amount of money spent on research into dementia and stroke in the UK is still far too low, health experts have said.

Analysis of funding for research into the four main causes of death and disability in the UK - cancer, heart disease, dementia and stroke - found just 10% was allocated to dementia and 7% to stroke research.

The study, led by the University of Oxford, said this was despite these conditions having huge economic and personal impact , with the social care costs of dementia outweighing that of the other three conditions combined.

The combined amount of research funding allocated by the Government and charities to all four conditions came to £855 million in 2012, almost two-thirds of which (64% or £546 million) was spent on cancer.

Around one fifth (19% or £165 million) was devoted to heart disease, with £85 million on dementia and £58 million on stroke research.

That same year, there were around 2.3 million cases of cancer, the same number of coronary heart disease cases, 0.8 million cases of dementia and 1.2 million of stroke, the study said.

The costs of healthcare were highest for cancer (£4.4 billion) and lowest for dementia, at £1.4 billion, while stroke was £1.8 billion.

But researchers found that the social care costs of dementia outweighed the social care costs of the other three conditions combined.

And the combined costs of health and social care for dementia came to £11.6 billion in 2012, they calculated.

This was more than double the equivalent costs for cancer at £5 billion, and significantly more than for stroke (£2.9 billion) and coronary heart disease (£2.5 billion).

This means that for every £10 of health and social care costs attributable to each condition, £1.09 in research funding was spent on cancer, £0.65 on coronary heart disease, £0.20 on stroke, and just £0.07 went on dementia.

The study, which is published in the British Medical Journal, said the amount of Government money pumped into dementia and stroke research in the UK has risen significantly in recent years, but the sums allocated by charities have scarcely changed since 2008.

Its authors suggested public preferences towards cancer charities might be due to people seeing dementia and stroke as inevitable aspects of ageing compared to cancer and heart disease.

"Although there has been much progress by Government to increase levels of research funding for dementia and stroke, these areas remain underfunded when compared with the burden of disease," the study concluded.

Hilary Evans, director of external affairs at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "While there have been welcome moves to increase Government funding for dementia research in recent years, these figures show that research into the condition still needs greater investment in proportion to its impact on society.

"Alzheimer's Research UK is leading the way in tackling this challenge - since 2008, we have more than doubled our annual commitment to research and we have ambitious plans to do more.

"Research is making real progress, but we need to see a commitment from all quarters to ensure that the advances being made can be harnessed to help transform lives. It will be vital for the next government to make dementia research a priority if we are to defeat the condition once and for all."

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