Less stigma, more education

Published: 22-May-2017

Breaking down the barriers to cognitive health

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the current world population of 7.3 billion is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100.

This statistic is extensively discussed because of its possible impact on the environment, food security and beyond. Just as significant, however, but not as extensively discussed is the decrease in CAGR, indicating an increase in the ageing population.

Between 2015 and 2050, says the World Health Organization, the proportion of the world’s population of people older than 60 will nearly double from 12% to 22%. This growth is going to be primarily driven by developed countries, those economies that have more discretionary income.

The size of this demographic, coupled with their spending power, will greatly impact healthcare costs and transform the respective markets, creating a range of new opportunities. Organisations in the dietary supplement industry, especially those in developed markets, should take part in these new opportunities by addressing the future concerns of the ageing population today.

One such concern is cognitive health. Cognitive health encompasses a multitude of facets, including the prevention of normal cognitive ageing, the gradual decline in awareness, information handling, memory and reasoning. Cognitive ageing affects everyone: it is not a disease or a disorder, it is a natural process of life. Not only is there a growing ageing population, but that ageing population is living longer, working longer and staying active longer, both mentally and physically.

Owing to this increase in life expectancy and productivity, the prevention of normal cognitive aging has never been more relevant than now. Although nearly all US adults who are 40 years and older (98%) feel that it is important to maintain or improve brain health, the cognitive health segment within the dietary supplement industry is underdeveloped and overshadowed by more popular segments such as cardiovascular health and weight management.

However, the industry cannot be solely blamed for this segment’s unrealised potential; consumers and society as a whole have played a large role. Cognitive health was never openly and publically addressed like other concerns, and some would even say it was taboo. Although not completely gone, the stigma that may have discouraged consumers from using cognitive health products is diminishing.

The more it diminishes, the more opportunities there are for cognitive health supplements; not much is available in terms of OTC or prescription products. According to the AARP’s 2015 Survey on Brain Health, “65% of US adults who are 40 years and older regularly take supplements and 24% do so because it is good for their brain. More than 75% of US adults in the same age group would be encouraged to take vitamins or supplements, once informed that they may be good for brain health.”

That unmet consumer demand indicates the market for cognitive health supplements is still in its infancy — not because consumers are unwilling to take them, but because consumers lack the option and education. Plus, these statistics only account for the 40-plus demographic in the US; the potential for cognitive health supplements multiplies when applied to all ages worldwide.

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