Dementia Research News - Spring 2017

4. Leading cause of death

Woman looking down

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that dementia is the most common cause of death in England and Wales. The figures show that just over 60,000 people died due to dementia in 2015, which is slightly more than the number of deaths caused by coronary heart disease.

There are a number of reasons for the increase in deaths recorded as being caused by dementia. More people are now receiving a diagnosis of dementia than before. Doctors have a better understanding of what happens when a person with dementia approaches the end of life. Our ageing population means that more people are living longer, and so are more likely to develop dementia. There have also been changes in the way that the cause of death is recorded, which means that dementia is logged on death certificates more often.

The statistics combine the number of deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, but numbers of deaths due to different types of cancer are reported separately. If all types of cancer were reported as a single group, cancer would be the most common cause of death overall.

Martina Kane, Senior Policy Officer at Alzheimer's Society, said, ‘The news represents improvements in diagnosis rates, general awareness and the accuracy of reporting, but it also reflects 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 agenda.’