Brain diseases could have a greater societal impact than Covid-19, research finds

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New research has found that brain diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, are surfacing earlier, proving more fatal, and could have a greater societal impact than Covid-19.

The research report from Bournemouth University investigates the ‘hidden epidemic’ of Brain Disease Deaths (BDD) and their prevalence in Western countries. Professor Colin Pritchard, who led the research, said: “We have been monitoring rises in BDD in the West and have been staggered by the speed of the recent increases during the 21st Century.”

His findings have revealed a significant rise in the deaths of ‘early adults’ (55 to 74-year-olds, those below average life expectancy) related to motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease, early onset dementia, multiple system atrophy, Alzheimer’s disease and others. Professor Pritchard added: “BDD in these countries are accelerating and, crucially, starting earlier.”

Based on World Health Organization (WHO) data, between the years 2000 and 2015, 18 of the 21 countries examined had substantial rises in early adult BDD deaths, including a 58% rise in the UK, 47% in the USA and a rise of 62% in Germany.

In the United Kingdom 38,083 total brain disease-related deaths were recorded in 2000. By 2015 this had risen to 157,623. Similarly, in the USA deaths jumped from 220,727 in 2000 to 573,094 in 2015; totaling more than a year’s worth of Covid-19 fatalities in both countries.

The difference between Covid-19 and BDD is that Covid-19 deaths are dramatic, people die within weeks, whereas BDD often take a decade or more before death, Whilst most Covid-19 infections are not fatal, whereas the vast majority of BDD are.”

Colin Pritchard, Professor, Bournemouth University

According to Professor Pritchard, the data points towards under-lying environmental causes, and the impact on families and health services should be a far greater concern to governments. He continued: “There are known occupations associated with higher neurological conditions as well as multiple interactive environmental factors which are increasing in the human environment.”

While the impact of Covid-19 is alleviated by vaccination programmes and public health measures, Professor Pritchard stresses the need for research into brain disease-related deaths. He said: “We are still unsure of the multiple causes of this neurological epidemic. Hence we must first recognize the extent of the problem and seek to address the underlying causes if we are to slow down any further increase.”

Journal reference:

Pritchard, C., et al. (2021) 21st Century Early Adult (55-74) Deaths from Brain-Disease-Deaths Compared to All Other Cause Mortality in the Major Western Countries – Exposing a Hidden Epidemic. Neurological Research.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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