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1 in 10 Korean seniors suffers from dementia

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Published : 2014-07-25 21:45
Updated : 2014-07-25 21:45

About 10 percent of South Korea’s elderly population are suffering from dementia, according to a study conducted by the Seoul National University Bundang Hospital.

According to professor and psychiatrist Kim Ki-woong, 9.2 percent of people in Korea aged 65 or older suffer from the brain disease, which severely hinders daily function.

The occurrence rate in South Korea is much higher than in China and Southeast Asian countries, where it ranges from 4.19 to 7.63 percent. Meanwhile, some 15 percent of senior citizens in Japan suffer from the disease, according to the research team. South Korea and Japan’s fast-growing aging societies are major factors behind the statistics, they said.

Among the elderly patients in Korea, most of them ― 5.7 percent of the entire senior population ― suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Its symptoms include memory loss, difficulties with abstract thinking and impaired judgment.

Meanwhile, 2.1 percent of the country’s elderly citizens suffer from vascular dementia, a type of dementia caused by problems in the blood supply to the brain. The disease often occurs after a series of minor strokes.

The Health Ministry expects that the number of those with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, will exceed the number of those aged 65 or older by 2024.

The disease is considered a threat to the nation and its future economy, as the authorities predict that it will cost some 43.6 trillion won ($43.1 billion) in treatment by 2030.

Last year, some 570,000 people suffered from the disease, resulting in medical costs of 11.7 trillion won.

According to the SNU Bundang Hospital’s research team, a senior’s chance of getting the disease doubles every 5.8 years. In other words, a 70.8-year-old individual is twice as likely to suffer from dementia as someone aged 65.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)

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