Alzheimer’s Puts Heavier Economic Burden on Women, According to Study

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by Kara Elam |

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Results from a recent study showed that women are more likely to not only be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), but to also be more heavily burdened by the associated economic costs, compared to men.  The study, entitled, “Gender Differences: A Lifetime Analysis of the Economic Burden of Alzheimer’s Disease,” was published in Women’s Health Issues, the official journal of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, which is based at Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University.

This gender inequality in disease has been well documented in the scientific literature. According to the Alzheimer’s Association in their “2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures,” women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than breast cancer. However this is the first study of its kind that is focused on understanding the economic burden of the costs associated with the disease on women and their caregivers

The study was conducted by two researchers from the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Emory University, Dr. Zhou Yang, PhD, assistant professor in Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, and Dr. Allan Levey, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology and director of the Emory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

To understand the economic burden of AD, Dr.s Yang and Levey utilized data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, for the years 2000 through 2010. They calculated the following costs:

  • long-term-care (LTC) paid by Medicaid
  • out-of-pocket for care at home or in assisted living facilities
  • those associated with informal, uncompensated care.

The findings showed that the greatest economic challenge of AD to women is the cost of the informal care they deliver, resulting in women bearing six times the cost of men.

In a University press release about the significance of this study, Dr. Chloe E. Bird, PhD, editor-in-chief of Women’s Health Issues, stated, “As Baby Boomers age, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia will place a greater strain on our healthcare system and on families. This study demonstrates the importance of policies to address the needs not only of patients but of caregivers, the majority of whom are women.”

For Dr. Yang, the study’s findings are important because “Public policy interventions that aim at curing or slowing the progress of AD, as well as those meeting the special home health care or long-term care need of the AD patients, will greatly benefit the welfare and economic status of women,” Yang says