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Scale of dementia death trebles in a decade

The scale of Britain’s dementia crisis is exposed in new official figures showing the proportion of people dying from conditions such as Alzheimer’s has trebled in just a decade.

A study of death registrations published by the Office for national Statistics shows a remarkable overall fall in death rates in England and Wales over the last 20 years, down 28 per cent for women and 36 per cent for men.

Death rates from heart disease, stroke and other circulatory conditions have tumbled by around 40 per cent in the last decade, while respiratory death rates were down by almost a quarter and cancer around 10 per cent.

But as medical breakthroughs and major lifestyle changes including a decline in smoking enable people to live longer, the impact of dementia is being felt more than ever.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s have overtaken heart disease as the biggest cause of death for women in recent years – accounting for just over 13 per cent of those registered last year.

 

It is now also the second biggest cause of death for men, just ahead of chest and lung cancers.

Overall there were just over half a million (501,424) deaths registered in England and Wales in 2014, down by 1.1 per cent on the previous year despite a growing and ageing population.

But while the proportion of women’s deaths attributed to heart disease tumbled dropped by more than a third, from 15.3 per cent to 9.4 per cent, between 2004 and 2014, the share attributed to dementia and Alzheimer’s almost trebled from 4.7 per cent to 13.4 per cent.

Meanwhile among men the proportion more than trebled, from two per cent of deaths to seven per cent.

Hilary Evans, chief executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “These latest figures underline a stark reality: with no treatments yet able to affect the course of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, no one currently survives a diagnosis of dementia.

“Diseases like Alzheimer’s are causing untold heartache for families across the UK, and these statistics should give us cause to redouble our efforts in the fight against them.

“Advances in medicine have helped reduce the impact of conditions like heart disease; now we must see the same to happen for dementia.

“Investment in research is vital if we are to find ways of treating and preventing dementia, and ultimately reduce the number of people dying from this devastating condition.”

The ONS said in a commentary to the figures: “Deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are increasing as people live longer, with women living longer than men.

“Some of the rise over the last few decades may also be attributable to a better understanding of dementia.

“This means that doctors may be more likely to record dementia on the death certificate.”

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