Employer’s role in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Dementia refers to the loss of cognitive functioning, including thinking, remembering and reasoning. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is a growing concern in the Asia-Pacific region. It is predicted that by 2050, the number of people with dementia in APAC will increase to 71 million (opens a new window), accounting for half of the people with dementia worldwide. Meanwhile, the global economic burden of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias will grow to $16.9 trillion (opens a new window). Of which, China will become the most affected country, facing an economic burden of $8.7 trillion. Japan and India will also be suffering from a heavy economic burden of $757.9 and $578.2 billion respectively.

Risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease

Age. Age is known as the most important risk factor. People aged 65 or above are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Around 5-6% of people have young-onset form of the disease, in which they develop symptoms between the age of 30 and 60.

Family history. Some dementias are passed down through the family. People who have close family members affected by Alzheimer’s disease are at a 30% (opens a new window) higher risk of developing the disease.

Lifestyle factors. The chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease increases when a person has an unhealthy lifestyle or cardiovascular diseases, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, hypertension, and infrequent social contact.

Head injury. Head injuries increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. According to a study (opens a new window), moderate head injury increases the risk by 2 times, and severe head injury by 4 times.

Challenges facing APAC

As Asia’s aged population continues to grow, the size of population most at risk of dementia is expanding. The biggest challenges facing Asia-Pacific countries are the lack of awareness, insufficient healthcare resource, and limited policy on dementia.

Due to the lack of understanding of the disease, there is a low diagnosis rate with dementia. Studies suggested that even in high income countries, there are only approximately a third of cases of dementia recognized and documented. Given the inadequate supply of healthcare services and limited support from governments in Asia, it is critical for people with dementia to receive early diagnosis and plan ahead, for example, sorting out finances and choosing a care home. Additionally, drug and non-drug therapies are believed to be more effective the earlier the patient is diagnosed.

How can employers contribute?

Treatments to improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are available. However, there is currently no cure for the disease. It is thus critical to work on disease prevention.

As a part of the employee wellness program, companies should launch campaigns to reduce employees’ risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, including:

Promoting a healthy lifestyle. In prevention of dementia caused by cardiovascular diseases, companies should promote a healthy lifestyle in the workplace, for instance, encouraging employees to maintain a healthy balanced diet, and educating them on the importance of adequate sleep.

Organizing physical and social activities. To lower the risk of having dementia, physical, social and cognitive stimulating activities should be organized regularly to keep employee mentally and socially active.

Detecting dementia. Understanding that early diagnosis is very important to patients of Alzheimer’s disease, companies should educate employees on ways to prevent and manage the disease, and provide dementia screening test. Managers should also be alert to sudden changes in an employee’s general performance and productivity.

If you would like to talk to an expert to review your employee benefit programs, please feel free to contact:

Rhea Ablan, Head of Employee Benefits, Philippines | +632 811 0388 | rhea.ablan@lockton.com (opens a new window)

Stella Sung, Head of Benefits and Health, Greater China & Korea | +852 2250 2831 | stella.sung@lockton.com (opens a new window)

Rachael Tay, Regional Head of Benefits, Asia Pacific | +65 8869 8592 | rachael.tay@lockton.com (opens a new window)