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

Illustration depicting the 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 a loss of mental function that affects daily activities. It happens when cells in the brain die or important nerve connections are broken. This process is known as neurodegeneration.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. Vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body dementia are other common types.

Symptoms and manifestations of dementia can include memory loss, judgement and reasoning problems, and changes in behaviour, mood and communication abilities.

Who is affected?

  • Data from 2013-2014 show that more than 402,000 seniors (65 years and older) are living with dementia in Canada.
  • Of that number, 2/3 are women.
  • On average, 9 Canadians are diagnosed with dementia every hour.
  • The risk of being diagnosed with dementia roughly doubles every 5 years after age 65.
  • Seniors with diagnosed dementia are 4 times more likely to die than other seniors. [CCDSS Dementia Data Tool]

See our infographic and our upcoming fact sheet to learn more about who is affected by dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, in Canada.

Why is it important?

Aging population

“If dementia doubles in 20 years as has been predicted, we need to know where people are going to go, and what each one costs in terms of resources, implications for rehabilitation, and quality of life." – Individual living with a neurological condition

Our population is aging. This change in our demography means that more Canadians will be living longer, and many will have chronic conditions. For example, thirty percent (30%) of Canadian seniors currently live with two or more chronic conditions.Footnote 1

Health impacts

“There is no normal anymore…everything you took for granted in your life has just kind of gone out the window, and you don’t even know what’s going to be thrown at you next. It can be different every time.” – Individual living with a neurological condition

“The impacts of these medical conditions on every facet of our lives are enormous – who could possibly think that people living with a neurological condition wouldn’t need mental health care?”      – Individual living with a neurological condition

As dementia progresses, it becomes highly debilitating for affected individuals and leads to major health impacts:

  • 48% of Canadians living in the community with dementia reported having fair or poor general health;
  • 30% reported having mood disorders;
  • 58% reported impaired mobility (limited in independent physical movement);
  • 37% reported moderate or severe pain and discomfort;
  • 57% of them reported urinary incontinence; and
  • 32% reported bowel incontinence.Footnote 2

Read Mapping Connections to learn more about the health impacts.

Women are most affected

Dementia affects women more than men. Women represent about two thirds of people affected, and that is considering Canadians currently living with dementia (prevalence) or those newly diagnosed (incidence). In long-term care facilities, this proportion is even higher, with 72% of residents with dementia being women.Footnote 3

Over the last decade, the prevalence of dementia remained significantly higher in women than in men. This gap between sexes increases with age. After age 85, the prevalence is 1.3 times higher in women than men (27% vs. 20%).

Changing the face of care

“When you take on the role of a caregiver, you enter a life-altering mode. In one phase of your life, you are doing all sorts of wonderful things as a couple, and then in the next phase you are changing your spouse’s diaper. This quantum leap in relationships is burdened with all sorts of psychological and emotional overlays.” – Informal caregiver

Caring for individuals with dementia requires many types of services delivered by formal and informal care providers. In Canada, the costs of caring for people with dementia are estimated to be 5.5 times greater than caring for people without the condition. Home care and long-term care are the biggest contributors to direct health care costs.Footnote 4

The most common problem for which seniors require help from a caregiver is general needs related with aging (28%). Dementia is the fifth most commonly reported problem requiring help (6%).Footnote 5

Effects of caregiving

  • On average, 74 hours per week of informal care is required for Canadians living with dementia.
  • Caregivers are spending $4,600 out-of-pocket annually for each person under their care that is living with dementia.Footnote 6

Informal caregivers are frequently the spouse (46%) or child (44%) of the person affected by dementia. Spouse caregivers are equally likely to be a man or a woman but daughters are far more likely (72%) than sons to provide care to a parent with dementia.Footnote 5 In addition, the social and financial impacts of caregiving are greater for female caregivers.Footnote 7

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


Using data from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System (CCDSS), PHAC conducts national surveillance of diagnosed dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, to support the planning and evaluation of policies, programs, and services. The CCDSS is a pan-Canadian partnership led by PHAC where each province and territory links administrative health databases to monitor the burden of chronic conditions. The expansion of the CCDSS to include dementia was initiated as part of the National Population Health Study of Neurological Conditions in 2011.

How do we know what we know?

In Canada, there are many ways that chronic conditions are monitored. Each data source has its benefits and limitations. That means that estimates vary between studies because of things like:

  • the differences in the definitions of the condition;
  • the age and geographical coverage;
  • the type of data.

To provide the number of people living with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease (prevalence) and the number of people newly diagnosed (incidence) at the national level, PHAC relies on estimates from the CCDSS. The CCDSS is the only national data source that currently provides incidence data for these conditions. This system is also nearly universal, which means it includes all Canadians covered by provincial or territorial health insurance (not including Saskatchewan in the case of dementia and inherently, Alzheimer’s disease). [CCDSS Data Cubes]

Policy and program

PHAC is working with partners at home and abroad to improve our understanding of dementia. Our goal is to help reduce the risks and improve the quality of life of those affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Looking at dementia through a healthy aging lens, we intend to reduce the impact of dementia on society and to support the aging population.

PHAC is supporting the establishment of the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation. The Centre acts as a solution accelerator and knowledge broker for the development of products and services on brain health and aging, with a focus on dementia. This is one of the actions being taken to improve the quality of life of Canadians living with dementia, their families, and their caregivers.

Dive Into the Data

Use the map below to discover the dementia estimates in Canada's provinces and territories. Navigate the map using the Next and Previous buttons or with Tab or Hover. Once a province is selected, Zoom using Click (when hovering) or Spacebar (when tabbing). Please note: The term 'dementia' includes 'Alzheimer’s disease', even when not specifically mentioned.

Estimates of Dementia in Canadian (2013)

2002 2013

Legend (Incidence, Rate per 100)


The incidence rate of dementia (including Alzheimer's disease) among those aged 65+ in in was . The national incidence rate was 1.5 per 100.

This map was created using Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System data files contributed by provinces and territories (May 2017).

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