Statistics on Alzheimer's Disease: Who Gets It?

Alzheimer's disease and related dementias affect more than 5 million Americans. One out of eight older adults has Alzheimer's disease — the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the only top ten cause of death without an effective treatment or prevention. So who makes up that 5+ million?

Neon sign of a bar graph on concrete wall
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Women or Men?

About 2/3 of the 5 million people with Alzheimer's are women. According to the Alzheimer's Association, "16 percent of women age 71 and older have Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, compared with 11 percent of men."

So does that mean that women are more likely to develop Alzheimer's? Science is mixed. Some researchers believe that women make up a greater percentage of those with Alzheimer's because they live longer, not because they're more likely to develop Alzheimer's. However, other research has suggested that women may be more vulnerable to changes in the brain and cognitive decline.


The biggest risk for developing Alzheimer's is age because as people age, they're more likely to develop Alzheimer's. About one third of those over the age of 85 have Alzheimer's. Additionally, about 200,000 people under 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer's.


According to the Alzheimer's Association, the incidence (number of new cases) of Alzheimer's over the course of a year increases significantly with age. There are 53 new cases of Alzheimer's per 1,000 people age 65 to 74, 170 new cases for those age 75 to 84, and 231 new diagnoses per 1000 people over 85 years old.


Almost half (45%) of people with dementia and their caregivers report that they have NOT been told about their diagnosis.


Non-white Hispanics and African Americans are more likely to develop Alzheimer's than whites. Research shows that these differences are likely due to health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as education levels. Studies also suggest that there are more people with undiagnosed Alzheimer's in non-whites, raising concerns for the lack of benefits from early diagnosis.


In the United States for 2015, it's estimated that costs for caring for people with Alzheimer's will total approximately $226 billion, $154 billion of which will be paid for by Medicare and Medicaid.


Approximately 15 million people are unpaid caregivers for someone with Alzheimer's, and around 60% of those caregivers are women. Many caregivers are over the age of 65 and may have their own health concerns; others are younger and are caring for both an older generation and their own children. These caregivers are often referred to as the "sandwich generation."

About 40% of caregivers report feelings of depression, and 60% of them rate caregiving as stressful.

Experts also estimate that up to 800,000 million adults with Alzheimer's disease live alone, and about half of those people don't have a caregiver.

Life Expectancy

On average, people with Alzheimer's live eight to 10 years after diagnosis, but the disease can progress over the course of two to 20 years. According to the Alzheimer's Association, one out of three older adults dies with Alzheimer's or another kind of dementia.

How Often Does Someone Develop Alzheimer's?

On average, every 68 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's. By 2050, someone will develop Alzheimer's disease every 33 seconds.

World Population

It's estimated that 36 million people are now living with Alzheimer's, and if the current rates continue, 66 million people worldwide will have Alzheimer's disease in 2030.

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By Esther Heerema, MSW
Esther Heerema, MSW, shares practical tips gained from working with hundreds of people whose lives are touched by Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia.