Almost one in eight people died from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in 2018, with the proportion increasing for the fourth successive year, up from 12.7% in 2017 to 12.8% in 2018., according to a report by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on deaths registered in England and Wales.
In 2018, there were 541,589 deaths registered in England and Wales, an increase of 1.6% compared with 2017 (533,253); this is the highest annual number of deaths since 1999. Deaths due to dementia and Alzheimer disease continued to increase and remained the leading cause of death in England and Wales.
There are, according to the report, several important reasons why the number of deaths from dementia and Alzheimer disease has increased in recent years.
Dementia and Alzheimer disease are more likely to occur at older ages and more people living longer and surviving other illnesses.
A better understanding of dementia and improved diagnosis is also likely to have caused increased reporting of dementia on death certificates. This may be a consequence of initiatives put in place in 2013 to 2014, such as the then Prime Minister David Cameron’s challenge on dementia and the government’s mandate to NHS England (PDF, 507KB), which included an ambition that two-thirds of the estimated number of people with dementia in England should have a diagnosis.
Death rates from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease continue to be much higher for women than men. For men in England and Wales, the leading cause of death – at 13.2% of all reported deaths – remains ischaemic heart disease. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are only the principle cause of death for men aged 80 and above, responsible for 15.1% of fatalities. For women in England and Wales, however, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are the leading cause of death across all ages: representing 16.7% of all reported deaths and rising to 23.6% for women aged over 80 years old.
Commenting on the report Dr. Hilda Hayo, Chief Admiral Nurse and CEO at Dementia UK said:
‘This is further clear-cut evidence of why dementia needs to be made a priority amongst Government. Rising incidences of dementia may point to increased public understanding around the condition but it does not diminish the often intense emotional and practical strain faced by families.
‘The Government needs to do more to integrate the creaking social and healthcare systems. More access to funding for social care and specialist dementia support will undoubtedly help to relieve the pressures on a struggling NHS and allow more families to live well with dementia.’
Sally Copley, director of policy and campaigns at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “For four years now, we’ve seen deaths caused by dementia increase.
“We need to take action now to tackle the biggest health crisis of our time.
“One person develops dementia in the UK every three minutes and there are still far too many facing a future alone, without adequate support.
“There has never been a more urgent need for the government, the NHS, the research community and society to unite with us against this devastating condition.
“We are working hard to make sure everyone can live well with dementia today and find a cure for the future, but we need the government to prioritise dementia with a dedicated NHS Dementia Fund and invest in a plan for long- term social care reform.”