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Improving health
Previously NHS Health Scotland

Dementia is an important public health challenge in Scotland. We partner with national and local agencies to tackle the health inequality challenges facing people with dementia, their families and carers. You will find information below on

  • the National Dementia Strategy
  • the NHS Health Scotland and Alzheimer Scotland Dementia and Equality briefing paper
  • The Dementia and Equality: meeting the challenge in Scotland research paper
  • where to access resources such as self-help books and DVDs
  • and resources for professionals.
  • Around 64% of people affected receive a diagnosis.
  • Around 3.5% of people affected are under the age of 65.
  • As of 2015, up to 90,000 people in Scotland were affected by dementia.
  • As the population ages, the number of people with dementia is steadily increasing as the risk of development increases with age.

You may want to read more data on dementia on the Scottish Public Health Observatory (ScotPHO) website (external).

Dementia and health inequalities

There are few large scale studies that have looked at social inequalities in dementia. Currently there is limited evidence that suggests that dementia is socially patterned. It is known, however, that health inequalities persist into old age and that many of the risk factors for dementia are associated with socio-economic disparities in mortality and morbidity. 

In the next 20 years it’s predicted that the number of people who are over 65 will rise, with an even greater increase of people in the oldest age groups. As a result, it’s likely that numbers of people with a diagnosis of dementia in Scotland will also rise. When this happens, social patterning in dementia may become more apparent.

Data on the prevalence of dementia also shows variations by personal characteristics such as

  • gender - 67% of people with dementia are women, most likely because women live longer than men
  • age - dementia risk increases with age. Estimated prevalence rates increase from 0.1% of people under the age of 64 years to 15.9% of people aged over 80 years
  • learning disability - dementia rates are higher amongst people with a learning disability and onset is often younger. Up to 75% of people with Down's Syndrome over 50 years of age develop dementia. For people with other causes of learning disability the prevalence of dementia is estimated to be greater than 18% in those aged 65 years or over, approximately three times higher than in the general population.
  • ethnicity - the estimated prevalence rates for dementia in the black and ethnic minority community are similar to the rest of the population with the exception of early on-set (presenting before 65 years) and vascular dementia which have been found to be more prevalent.

We partnered with key stakeholders to examine evidence of effective interventions to raise awareness of dementia amongst people for whom challenges might arise in receiving a diagnosis. The results of this collaboration can be found in our ‘Dementia and Equality’ briefing paper.

National and local action

National dementia strategies

Dementia has been a national priority in Scotland since 2007. 

The current national dementia strategy (2017-2020) includes 21 commitments. Building on progress made in the last strategy, this strategy focuses on three key priorities which include

  • continuing timely, person-centred and consistent treatment and care for people living with dementia and their carers, in all settings
  • more progress on the provision of support after diagnosis and throughout the disease, taking account of individual needs and circumstances
  • responding to the increasing proportion of older people developing dementia later in life, often alongside other chronic conditions.

The previous strategy (2013-2016) took a human rights approach to ensure that high quality, person-centred care is provided from diagnosis to end of life.  The strategy had 17 commitments and acknowledges that different approaches are needed to ensure everyone receives a timely, accurate diagnosis of dementia and post diagnostic support.

The first strategy (2010-2013) focused on improving the quality of dementia services through more timely diagnosis and better care and treatment.

Dementia and Equality research

We took part in the National Advisory Group on Dementia and Equality and published the report ‘Dementia and Equality: meeting the challenge in Scotland’. This explores the evidence on equalities and dementia and practice within Scotland. The report offers suggested recommendations to assist in reducing inequalities for people living with dementia and their families. The current national dementia strategy states we will support implementation of the report’s recommendations.

The Standards of Care for Dementia in Scotland

The quality of dementia care services is governed by the Standards of Care for Dementia in Scotland. You can read the standards on the Scottish Government’s website (external). The standards are for people with dementia and their carers to understand their rights and ensure they receive the support they need to stay well, safe and listened to.

Dementia resources

There are a range of books and DVDs which have been produced to support people with dementia, their carers and people working in the field. These can be downloaded from Alzheimer Scotland’s website and include

To order hard copies of these resources contact

There are also a number of resources available for professionals. 

You can contact us with queries about our work on dementia.