SEOUL, Sept. 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's dementia patient numbers and spending on the condition have soared in recent years amid the rapid aging of the country's population, data showed Monday.
According to the data provided by the Ministry of Health and Welfare to Rep. Kim Kwang-soo, the number of people diagnosed with various forms of neurodegenerative disease rose from 416,309 in 2014 to 547,700 in 2016 and hit 712,386 last year.
During the cited period, outlays on treatment shot up from a little over 1.3 trillion won (US$1.1 billion) in 2014 to 1.7 trillion won in 2016 and to over 2.2 trillion won in 2018, the first time that dementia-related medical costs have topped the 2 trillion-won threshold, the data showed.
The number of dementia patients reached just shy of 1.4 percent of the total population in 2018, with around 70 percent of those afflicted being women.
The latest tally revealed that 85 percent of dementia patients were over 70, with such people accounting for 93 percent of all related treatment spending, they showed.
South Korea effectively became an aged society in 2017, with 14 percent of its population older than 65, and it is heading towards becoming a super-aged society with a fifth of its population exceeding 65 years of age by 2026.
Dementia can affect younger people, but for the most part it is closely linked to old age. This can pose challenges for countries like South Korea that are undergoing rapid a shift in demographics.
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