Date
20 July 2018
Hong Kong must step up efforts to support the needs of our elderly population and address the factors that contribute to the rising number of dementia cases in the city. Photo: AFP
Hong Kong must step up efforts to support the needs of our elderly population and address the factors that contribute to the rising number of dementia cases in the city. Photo: AFP

Hong Kong sees rising number of dementia cases

Sometimes elderly people would play dumb or pretend to be forgetful in order to avoid getting embarrassed or upsetting others by telling the truth.

However, constant forgetfulness could be a symptom of early-stage dementia.

In 2015, there were some 46 million dementia patients around the world, most of whom were over the age of 60.

In that same year, those suffering from dementia on average accounted for 5.1 percent of the population above 60, according to the 2015 World Population Aging Report published by the United Nations.

The ratio in the United States and the United Kingdom were 6.2 percent and 6.4 percent respectively, which weren’t particularly high compared to the global average of 5.1 percent, the report said.

Besides, the number of dementia patients in those two countries has been on the decline over the past 10 years.

However, by comparison, the ratio in Germany, Italy and Japan stood at around 7 percent, which was considered quite high.

Among them, 20 percent became dementia patients after suffering a stroke.

In fact, Germany and Italy have the highest numbers of stroke patients in Europe, which may explain why they also have a relatively high ratio of people suffering from dementia.

As for Japan, some studies have attributed the country’s high number of dementia cases to the people’s diet.

Surprisingly, China had a substantially lower ratio of dementia patients (4.3 percent), compared to the West, according to the 2015 study.

The reason why I describe the findings as “surprising” is because almost all the known dementia risk factors are quite common among mainlanders, including chain-smoking, alcoholism, and frequent consumption of food contaminated with heavy metal.

However, other studies suggest that over 90 percent of the dementia patients in China could have gone under the radar, which means the actual number of dementia cases in the country could be a lot higher.

In Hong Kong, dementia cases accounted for 8.8 percent of the population aged over 60, which was significantly higher than the world average.

According to some government documents submitted to the Legislative Council, the number of dementia patients in our city is likely to continue growing in the years ahead.

In my opinion, there might be multiple reasons behind the growing number of dementia cases in Hong Kong.

For example, many locals are fond of seafood, which means the level of mercury in our body could also be above average if the seafood we consume is contaminated with mercury.

Another possible reason is that the government abolished the tax on wine in 2008, and since then, binge drinking could become increasingly common among local adults, thereby possibly exacerbating the risk of dementia.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 5

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

JC/CG

Hong Kong Economic Journal contributor

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