Dementia deaths to nearly quadruple by 2040, scientists warn

Campaigners expressed concern about the quality of care for patients 

Ella Pickover
Thursday 18 May 2017 00:16 BST
Dementia deaths are expected to increase to 208,636 by 2040
Dementia deaths are expected to increase to 208,636 by 2040 (AFP/Getty Images)

The number of people who die from dementia is set to almost quadruple in coming years, a new study has found.

Increasing deaths from the condition will contribute to a rocketing number of people who will need end-of-life care, researchers added.

By 2040, it is estimated 219,409 people in England and Wales will die from dementia - a significant rise from 59,199 in 2014.

Experts called for urgent action to address the growing need for end-of-life care services.

What is dementia?

The study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, saw experts analyse mortality statistics for England and Wales from 2006 to 2014.

Researchers from the Cicely Saunders Institute at King's College London then calculated the proportion of people who need palliative care, and corresponding rises over the nine-year period.

They estimated that by 2040, the annual number of deaths in England and Wales will rise by 25.4 per cent to 628,659.

As well as predicting soaring numbers of deaths from dementia, researchers also estimated that by 2040, the number of deaths from cancer will increase from 143,638 to 208,636.

They concluded palliative care needs will rise by 42.4 per cent by 2040.

This means 160,000 more people in England and Wales will need such care by 2040.

At present, it is estimated three-quarters of people need some level of palliative care, but researchers believe this will rise to 85 per cent in the coming 23 years.

"By 2040, national data suggests there will be a rise in the prevalence of chronic progressive illnesses, and we believe that many of these will require symptom relief and palliative care," said lead author Dr Simon Noah Etkind from the Cicely Saunders Institute.

Commenting on the research, Alzheimer's Society director of campaigns and partnerships Rob Burley said: "Dementia is set to be the 21st century's biggest killer.

"It is the only leading cause of death that we can't cure, prevent or slow down.

"Currently there is scant palliative care for people with dementia, just 8 per cent of people with dementia die at home, and less than one per cent die in hospices.

"Everyone has the right to a dignified death in a place of their choosing, yet we continue to see the sustained failure by the system to prepare and plan for end of life care for people with dementia.

"This predicted fourfold increase in dementia deaths is a wake-up call to provide more dementia-appropriate palliative care services in the community."

Dr Matthew Norton, of Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "Dementia is our greatest medical challenge and we know that unless research can deliver new treatments and preventions, this challenge will only get worse, as these findings highlight.

"The figures from this study are very alarming, but we can prevent this becoming the reality if we invest now in pioneering research."

Press Association

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