Researchers found a sharp rise in the deaths from dementia and other neurological disease in under-74s, and believe that the figures cannot be explained away by the fact we live longer.
Instead the “epidemic” is down to the environmental and social changes in the modern world, the authors claim.
Of the 10 biggest Western countries the US had the highest increase in all neurological deaths between 1979 and 2010.
The UK hadthe fourth largest increase, according to World Health Organisation statistics, with men up 32 per cent and women up 48 per cent – representing a rise from 4,500 deaths to 6,500.
Within the figures there is an alarming “hidden epidemic” of deaths in adults under 74, especially the UK, according to the study published in Public Health Journal.
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.
Women’s neurological deaths rose faster in most countries.
Professor Colin Pritchard, from Bournemouth University, said: “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.”
That people suffer more brain diseases, and from younger ages, is illustrated the creation of two new charities – The Young Parkinson’s Society and Young Dementia UK – which would have been inconceivable 30 years ago, he said.
“Considering the changes over the last 30 years – the explosion in electronic devices, rises in background non-ionising radiation – PCs, microwaves, TVs, mobile phones; road and air transport up four-fold increasing background petro-chemical pollution; chemical additives to food, etcetera,” Professor Pritchard said.
“There is no one factor rather the likely interaction between all these environmental triggers, reflecting changes in other conditions.”