Dementia Is Now The Biggest Killer In The UK

Deaths per million persons in 2012 due to dementia. Red = 376–1266

For the first time in recorded history, Alzheimer's and other dementias have eclipsed ischaemic heart disease as the greatest cause of mortality in the UK

We are living in a time of unparalleled aging, in which the older segment of society is no longer equalled by their younger counterparts. This is producing a change in mortality, and while ischaemic heart disease once dominated the top spot, improved treatment of heart disease along with increasing numbers of people over 80 has led to a rapid rise in dementia. 

According to the Office of National Statistics 61,686 (11.6%) of a total of 529,655 deaths last year in England and Wales were caused by dementia in some form. Ischaemic heart disease stood at 11.5%. These were followed by cerebrovascular diseases, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and lung cancer.

“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. It is 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 agenda”

Credit: WHO

A complex picture

While dementia has officially taken the top spot, the picture isn't quite that simple. For men, ischaemic disease is still the number one killer, causing 14.3% of all male deaths. Dementia in contrast caused 15.2% of all female deaths, rising from 13.4% in 2014. Other diseases are also not grouped together. If they were, cancer would be classified the greatest killer at 27.9% of all deaths, while all circulatory diseases together make up 26.2% of the total. 

Dementia is most strikingly a disease of old age, and is only the leading cause of death in individuals over 80 years old, despite the fact they may receive a diagnosis earlier. In the 35 to 49 age group breast cancer was the greatest cause of mortality in women while suicide and injury killed the most men, highlighting the importance of mental health efforts. While forecasts have decreased, Alzheimer's Society UK still expects there to be around 1 million people with Alzheimer's in the UK by 2025. 

"The figures call attention to the uncomfortable reality that currently, no-one survives a diagnosis 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”

Read more at The Guardian