New figures released by the Office of National Statistics show that for the first time, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are the leading cause of death for England and Wales. Of the 529,655 deaths registered during 2015, dementia accounted for 61,686 (11.6%).
The report shows that since 2010, mortality rates for Alzheimer’s and other dementias have increased. In contrast, the other top four leading causes of death in 2015 – ischaemic heart diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, chronic lower respiratory diseases and lung cancer – have all seen falling mortality rates in the last 15 years. The ONS highlights a number of reasons for this trend, including longer life expectancy, improved treatments for other conditions, and improvements in the diagnosis rate for dementia.
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“These figures once again call attention to the uncomfortable reality that currently, no-one survives a diagnosis of dementia. Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Christmas awareness campaign, launching on Wednesday, recognises this truth, that dementia is affecting increasing numbers of people and turning lives upside down.
“Some of the increase can be explained by a rise in diagnosis rates and a change in the way dementia is recorded on death certificates, offering a more accurate picture of the impact of dementia. With growing numbers of people living with dementia, we urgently need treatments that can stop or slow the diseases that drive this devastating condition.
“Today’s report shows the potential for medical research and public policy to make a positive impact on the health of our nation. Thanks to better treatments and prevention programmes, deaths from many other serious conditions have been steadily dropping: now we must do the same for dementia. Dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing, it’s caused by diseases that can be fought through research, and we must bring all our efforts to bear on what is now our greatest medical challenge.”