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90 Percent of Dementia Cases Are Left Untreated in China

Update Date: Jul 25, 2013 01:55 PM EDT

In order to effectively treat mental illnesses, the stigmas surrounding them must be broken down. Several studies have found that people who do not seek medical treatment for mental illnesses tend to be afraid of the label that comes with a diagnosis. Due to this reluctance, mental illnesses often go unchecked and untreated, resulting in a lower quality of life. In a new study, researchers found that in China, over 90 percent of dementia cases are left undetected due to the lack of mental health education in the nation.

For this study, an international team of health experts headed by Dr. Rouling Chen at King's College London joined together to look at the prevalence of mental illnesses in China. In this study, the researchers collected interviews from a random group composed of 7,072 adults from six provinces. Within each province, there was one rural and one urban community. Out of the sample, they found that 359 older adults suffered from dementia and 328 older adults had depression. Out of these groups, the researchers discovered that only 26 of them were actually diagnosed with dementia and another 26 was diagnosed with depression by doctors.

The researchers concluded that overall, 93 percent of dementia cases in China remain undetected in people over the age of 60. This finding suggests that countries might need to address dementia in seniors in a more effective way. Dementia affects about 50 million people in the global community with about 35 million of them never getting diagnosed with the illness.

"Dementia is increasingly a major global health challenge given that the world's population is aging. China has the most dementia sufferers of any country in the world, but at the same time it is a poorly recognized condition," Chen said according to Medical Xpress.

The researchers stated that Chinese cultural factors might be playing a huge role as to why dementia is often left undetected. The researchers believe that in rural areas, people's perception of dementia is that it is part of the normal process of aging. Due to these beliefs, the researchers suggest that more education regarding mental illness needs to be accessible.

The study, which was funded by Alzheimer's Research UK and the BUPA Foundation, was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry

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