Rates of brain diseases are increasing at almost epidemic rates, especially in the US, a new study reports.
Researchers have compared figures for neurological disease from 1989 with those from 2010 across 21 Western countries.
They found that dementia is starting, on average, a decade earlier in 2010 than it was in 1989.
In the US, the figures are particularly worrying.
Women over 75 are suffering five times as many neurological deaths as they were two decades ago.
The same comparison for men over 75 shows a three-fold increase in neurological deaths.
Professor Colin Pritchard, who led the study, said:
“The rate of increase in such a short time suggests a silent or even a ‘hidden’ epidemic, in which environmental factors must play a major part, not just aging.
Modern living produces multi-interactional environmental pollution but the changes in human morbidity, including neurological disease is remarkable and points to environmental influences.”
Professor Pritchard continued:
“In part, some of the results are explained by more effective treatments for cancer and heart disease, with advances in medicine making such physical illnesses easier to treat, whilst there have been less advances in the treatment of neurological conditions.
Crucially it is not just because people are living longer to get diseases they previously would not have lived long enough to develop but older people are developing neurological disease more than ever before.
The environmental changes in the last 20 years have seen increases in the human environment of petro-chemicals — air transport- quadrupling of motor vehicles, insecticides and rises in background electro-magnetic-field, and so on.
These results will not be welcome news as there are many with short-term vested interests that will want to ignore them.
It is not that we want to stop the modern world but rather make it safer.
Essentially, it is time for us to wake up and realize that a major problem we now face is unprecedented levels of neurological disease, not just the earlier dementias and thinking of the USA — `when America sneezes, Europe gets cold a decade later.”
The study was published in the journal Surgical Neurology International (Pritchard & Rosenorn-Lanng, 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Brain image from Shutterstock