dementias have replaced ischaemic heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales for the first time.
Last year, 61,686 (11.6%) out of a total of 529,655 deaths
registered in England and Wales were attributable to dementia, according
to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The statisticians said an ageing population, better
diagnosis, and lifestyle and treatment advances with respect to other
illnesses were among the factors that had pushed dementia to the top of
The mortality rate for dementia, which was the second
leading cause of death for the previous four years, has more than
doubled since 2010, while that of ischaemic heart disease declined
sharply over the same period.
Martina Kane, senior policy officer at Alzheimer’s Society,
said: “Today’s news that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are the
leading cause of death in England and Wales is a stark reminder that
dementia remains a growing concern across the country. While the news
represents improvements in diagnosis rates, general awareness and the
accuracy of reporting, it also reflects that there are rising numbers of
people with dementia.
“While there remains no cure for the condition, everyone who
develops it will sadly still have the disease when they die. It is
therefore essential that people have access to the right support and
services to help them live well with dementia and that research into
better care, treatments and eventually a cure remain high on the
Ischaemic heart diseases were responsible for 11.5% of
deaths last year, although it was still the leading cause of death for
men, accounting for 14.3% of male deaths. Dementia, the leading cause of death for women, was responsible for 15.2% of all female deaths, up from 13.4% in 2014.
Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK,
said the figures “call attention to the uncomfortable reality that
currently, no-one survives a diagnosis of dementia”. He added: “With
growing numbers of people living with dementia, we urgently need
treatments that can stop or slow the diseases that drive this
ONS said there was likely to have been an increased reporting of
dementia on death certificates because of dementia diagnosis incentives
paid to GPs (which have since been scrapped), the prime minister’s challenge to improve dementia care and an agreed ambition that two-thirds of the estimated number of people with dementia in England should have a diagnosis.
Elizabeth McLaren, from the vital statistics outputs branch
at ONS, said: “In 2015, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease became the
leading cause of death in part because people are simply living longer
but also because of improved detection and diagnosis. An updating of the
international rules for determining the underlying cause of death is
also a factor, with the increase in cases attributed to these conditions
accompanied by falls in other causes.”
most common causes of death last year after dementia and ischaemic
heart disease were cerebrovascular diseases, such as strokes, chronic
lower respiratory diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, and lung cancer.
There was wide variation by age group. Dementia was the
leading cause of death for people over 80 but it was the fourth leading
cause of death for women aged 65 to 79 and not in the top five leading
causes of death for men aged within that age group. Among men aged 35 to
49 suicide and injury/poisoning of undetermined intent was responsible
for the most deaths, while for women of the same age group the leading
cause of death was breast cancer.
If all cancers
are grouped together, it was the most common cause of death, accounting
for 27.9% of all deaths last year, compared with 26.2% caused by
circulatory diseases, such as heart diseases and strokes.
Alzheimer’s Society estimates that there will be a million people with dementia in the UK by 2025, although research published earlier this year suggests that the number of new cases in recent years has been fewer than previously predicted.
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Dementia and Alzheimer's leading cause of death in England and Wales