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Dementia (including Alzheimer's Disease) in Canada Published: ()

umbrella icon depicting umbrella term 'dementia'. Underneath the umbrella, four common types of dementia are listed: Lewy Body, Vascular, Frontotemporal and Alzheimer's.

What is it?

Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a set of symptoms affecting brain function. It happens when cells in the brain die or important nerve connections are broken. This process is known as neurodegeneration.

Dementia may be caused by neurodegenerative diseases (affecting brain neurons), vascular diseases (affecting blood vessels, like arteries and veins), and injuries.

Common types of dementia include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease dementia
  • vascular dementia
  • mixed dementia
  • frontotemporal dementia
  • Lewy body dementia

Common symptoms of dementia include:

  • memory loss
  • judgement and reasoning problems
  • changes in behaviour, mood and communication abilities


Who is affected?Footnote 1

  • In 2016–2017, more than 432,000 individuals aged 65 years and older were living with diagnosed dementia in Canada.
  • Of these individuals, 2/3 are women.
  • About 9 Canadians are diagnosed with dementia every hour.
  • The risk of being diagnosed with dementia doubles with every 5-year increase in age, between the ages of 65 and 84.

See our infographic for a visual summary of key national statistics on dementia.


What are the health impacts?

Dementia can lead to major health impacts. For example:

  • Of Canadians living in the community with dementia, 49% reported having fair or poor general health and 58% reported limitations in their mobility (independent physical movement).Footnote 2
  • Of Canadians living in long-term care with dementia, 31% had signs of depression.Footnote 3
  • Overall, the risk of dying from any cause in 2016–2017 was 4.4 times higher among Canadians aged 65 years and older with diagnosed dementia compared to those without dementia.Footnote 1

Many factors impact someone’s health. Certain individuals may be more likely to be affected by chronic conditions, like dementia. Some may be at higher risk of developing the condition, while others may face significant barriers to care, which could help reduce dementia health impacts. Read the National Dementia Strategy (Chapter 6) to learn more about dementia and health equity.

Canada’s population is also aging. This means that more Canadians are living longer, and many will develop chronic conditions, including dementia. Working to promote healthy aging and to limit these health impacts will become even more important for the future.


Changing the face of care

Individuals with dementia often require care and support from a variety of care providers, including personal support workers, family/friend caregivers and health professionals.

  • About 26 hours per week of informal care is required for Canadians aged 65 and over living with dementia, compared to 17 hours for those without.Footnote 4
  • Caregivers are spending $4,600 out-of-pocket annually for each person living with dementia under their care.Footnote 5
  • 45% of caregivers for individuals with dementia show symptoms of distress, compared to 25% of caregivers for individuals without dementia.Footnote 4


What is the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) doing?

Surveillance and data

To support the implementation of the National Dementia Strategy, PHAC is exploring new ways to expand national data on dementia. Improving dementia surveillance will provide a more accurate picture of the impact of dementia in Canada.

In collaboration with all Canadian provinces and territories, PHAC collects, analyzes and shares data on diagnosed dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, through the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System (CCDSS). To identify people with the condition, a validated case definition is applied to provincial and territorial health insurance registry records linked using a unique personal identifier to the corresponding physician billing claims, hospital discharge abstract records and prescription drug records. This system aids the planning and evaluation of health policies, programs, and services.

Most recent data from the CCDSS are available on the Public Health Infobase in the CCDSS Data Tool.

Policy and program

PHAC is working with partners at home and abroad to help reduce the risks of developing dementia and improve the quality of life for those affected by dementia. PHAC investments support individuals living with dementia, caregivers and all people living in Canada. This includes funding to:

  • increase awareness towards reducing risk and stigma
  • improve access to and use of dementia guidance, such as treatment guidelines and best practices for early diagnosis
  • support community-based projects that aim to address the challenges of dementia

Looking at dementia through a healthy aging lens, PHAC hopes to reduce the impact of dementia on society and to support the aging population.

Learn more about dementia in Canada

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