London: Modern lifestyle is causing dementia and other brain diseases to strike at a younger age, with widespread use of computers, mobile phones and chemicals to blame, a new study has found.
The latest research has found that the sharp rise of dementia and other neurological deaths in people under 74 cannot be put down to the fact that we are living longer.
The rise is because a higher proportion of old people are being affected by such conditions - and what is really alarming, it is starting earlier and affecting people under 55 years, according to the research published in journal Public Health.
Of the 10 biggest Western countries the US had the worst increase in all neurological deaths - men up 66 per cent and women 92 per cent between 1979-2010. The UK was 4th highest - men up 32 per cent and women 48 per cent.
"These statistics are about real people and families, and we need to recognise that there is an `epidemic` that clearly is influenced by environmental and societal changes," said Professor Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University.
Pritchard and colleagues show that there are rises in total neurological deaths, including the dementias, which are starting earlier, impacting upon patients, their families and health and social care services, exemplified by an 85 per cent increase in UK Motor Neurone Disease deaths.
The research highlights that there is an alarming `hidden epidemic` of rises in neurological deaths between 1979-2010 of adults (under 74) in Western countries, especially the UK.
Total neurological deaths in both men and women rose significantly in 16 of the countries covered by the research, which is in sharp contrast to the major reductions in deaths from all other causes.
"These rises in neurological deaths, with the earlier onset of the dementias, are devastating for families and pose a considerable public health problem," Pritchard said.
"Considering the changes over the last 30 years - the explosion in electronic devices, rises in background non-ionising radiation - PC`s, micro waves, TV`s, mobile phones; road and air transport up four-fold increasing background petro-chemical pollution; chemical additives to food etc. There is no one factor rather the likely interaction between all these environmental triggers, reflecting changes in other conditions.
"For example, whilst cancer deaths are down substantially, cancer incidence continues to rise, levels of asthma are un-precedented, the fall in male sperm counts - the rise of auto-immune diseases - all point to life-style and environmental influences," said Pritchard.