Background: Preventing dementia has been proposed to increase population health as well as reduce the demand for health and social care. Our aim was to evaluate whether preventing dementia by promoting physical activity (PA) a) improves population health or b) reduces expenditure for both health and social care if one takes into account the additional demand in health and social care caused by increased life expectancy. Methods: A simulation model was developed that models the relation between PA, dementia, mortality, and the use of health care and social care in England. With this model, scenarios were evaluated in which different assumptions were made about the increase in PA level in (part of) the population. Results: Lifetime spending on health and social care related to dementia was highest for the physically inactive (£28,100/£28,900 for 40-year-old males/females), but spending on other diseases was highest for those that meet PA recommendations (£55,200/£43,300 for 40-year-old males/females) due to their longer life expectancies. If the English population aged 40-65 were to increase their PA by one level, life expectancy would increase by 0.23 years and health and social care expenditures would decrease by £400 per person. Conclusions: Preventing dementia by increasing PA increases life expectancy and can result in decreased spending overall on health and social care, even after additional spending during life years gained has been taken into account. If prevention is targeted at the physically inactive, savings in dementia-related costs outweigh the additional spending in life years gained.

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Preventive Medicine
Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM)

van Baal, P., Hoogendoorn, M., & Fischer, A. (2016). Preventing dementia by promoting physical activity and the long-term impact on health and social care expenditures. Preventive Medicine, 85, 78–83. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.01.013