Leading death causes change in 2015

Latest mortality figures from the last 14 years indicate concerning changes in causes of death

In England and Wales during 2015 – the most recent data –  529,655 deaths were registered.

The most common cause of death at a broad group level was cancer, making up 27.9% of all registered deaths. Circulatory diseases followed this, with causes such as heart disease and stroke making up 26.2%.

Groupings, based on that created by the World Health Organisation, are used by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), allowing the mortality patterns in England and Wales to be examined. Using this grouping system, data has indicated that the top five leading causes of death make up 41.5% of total registered deaths in England and Wales during 2015.

Accounting for 11.6% of all registered deaths, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease became the leading cause of death in 2015. It just overtook and therefore replaced ischaemic heart diseases, which made up 11.5% of deaths registered. Based on this grouping, information is available from 2011 to 2015. From this point, ischaemic heart disease has always been the leading cause of death.

During this period, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease has been the second most common cause of death, and rates have increased in recent years.

This may be due to various factors:

  • People living longer due to better lifestyles and advanced medication
  • Better understanding of the conditions and therefore improved diagnosis
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease usually affect older people and the population is ageing
  • As men are living longer, a growing number are dying from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and thus pushing up the total figure

In contrast to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, mortality rates for the remaining leading causes of death have dropped since 2001. This is likely to be due to diagnosis and treatment improvement in regards to these diseases, as well as awareness campaigns and preventative programmes.

For both boys and girls aged one to four years in 2015, the leading cause of death was congenital malformations, chromosomal abnormalities and deformations. For females this accounted for 11.3% deaths within this age range and 10.5% of male deaths. Compared to the previous year, there has been a drop for both genders; from 13.1% of girls and 13.7% of boys.

For both genders aged five to 19, the leading cause of death was suicide and injury or poisoning of undetermined intent. It accounted for 16.9% of male deaths in this age group and 10.6% of girls.

The second leading cause of death for five to 19-year-olds was land transport accidents in 2015, making up 11.9% of male deaths and 8.8% of female deaths. The figures have fallen from 2014 however, where land transport accidents accounted for 12.2% of male deaths and 9.4% of female deaths within this age range.

For males and females between the ages of 20 to 34, the leading cause of death was again suicide and injury or poisoning of undetermined intent. This accounted for 21.4% of deaths.

For females aged 35 to 49, breast cancer continues to be the leading cause of death, making up 13.5% of deaths. Suicide and injury or poisoning of undetermined intent is the leading cause for males in this age range, accounting for 11.8% of deaths.

The main cause of death for both genders aged between 50 to 79 was in relation to long-term conditions and diseases. Ischaemic heart disease was the leading cause for men in this age range, accounting for 16.2% of deaths, whilst for women it was lung cancers, which made up 10.6% of deaths.

For men and women over 80, the leading cause of death in 2015 was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This made up 21.2% of female deaths and 13.7% of male deaths.

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