Dementia continues to top the cause of death among the over-75s, accounting for a quarter of all deaths in this age group in England, reveal the latest figures on mortality* issued by Public Health England.
The figures have prompted leading charity Alzheimer’s Research UK call on the government to fund more dementia research as a matter of urgency.
Alzheimer’s Research UK believes that long-term and sustained investment in dementia research can bring about the same life-changing treatments for dementia as have become available for cancer and HIV/AIDS in recent decades.
Official figures show that a record number of people were diagnosed with dementia last month. Diagnoses have risen 7% since 2016.
“We know that dementia is not only the leading cause of death in the UK but is the health crisis of our time, causing heartbreak to families across the country and straining the health system,” said Helen Davies, the charity’s head of public affairs.
“We have seen our understanding of the diseases that cause dementia grow with increased support for research from government in recent years. But government hasn’t yet committed to the kind of support we must see to bring about life-changing new treatments.
“Alzheimer’s Research UK is calling on the government to put just 1% of the cost of dementia towards research to improve the lives of people with dementia. Both the review of the Challenge on Dementia and the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review offer unique opportunities to meet this health crisis head on, but the government must act now if we are to end the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia,” she added.
In 2017-18, the government invested £82.5m in dementia research, the equivalent of 0.3% of the £26bn cost of dementia to the UK economy. This compares with the £269m, or 1.6% of the cost of cancer, towards cancer research in 2015-6, the last year data were available.
Helen Davies added: “The rising number of dementia diagnoses demonstrates that dementia, already the leading cause of death, is not a health crisis that will go away on its own. We must revolutionise the way we diagnose and treat the diseases that cause dementia to better equip the NHS to improve people’s lives.”
* Death in people aged 75 years and older in England in 2017. Public Health England, June 2019.