A recent survey by a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry study team found that 4.62 million Japanese suffer from dementia, nearly 1.6 million more than last year's estimate. The new study included early-stage patients who have not yet needed to use nursing care services.

The study's more inclusive approach reveals that an epidemic of dementia has already arrived in Japan. The rate of dementia in elderly people was found to be 15 percent. This figure will likely rise as the Japanese population grows increasingly gray.

Dementia refers to many different types of symptoms, the most commonly known being Alzheimer's, but it can be considered a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life and generally require care. In a small number of cases it can be treated with hormone or vitamin therapies, but generally, dementia requires extensive care and assistance.