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The deadliest single killers; dementia for women and heart disease for men, but cancers still claim a third of all deaths

It makes for grim reading and its not for the faint-hearted (no pun intended) but the annual round up of mortality statistics is important for our understanding of the biggest risks facing our population currently, and for the future planning of healthcare priorities.

All the usual suspects are there, as we would expect, but the key headlines are the differences between men and women, the continuing rise of female dementia and the continued dominance of cancer.

The number of deaths from dementia among women has risen by almost 8% in the past decade, and with 31,850 deaths was, once again, the single biggest cause of female mortality; more than treble the number of deaths from breast cancer.

Dementia accounted for only 15,262 male deaths, third in this grisly league table and well short of the 16,818 who died from lung cancer which in turn was a long way from the biggest male killer, heart disease, which claimed 37.797 men in 2013.

Completing the deadliest trio for women were 26,075 deaths from heart disease and 20,706 deaths from strokes.

Observers have noted improvements in the figures for lung cancer and heart disease, following aggressive public health action in the smoking bans and heightened awareness of the problems of obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise.

The rise in dementia can be partly explained by more sophisticated diagnosis at the GP level making it more likely that this be recorded as a cause of death.

There is every reason to expect this trend to continue through the current year, particularly with the drive by the health authorities to encourage doctors to look for and diagnose more existing cases which have previously gone undetected.

Taken as a whole, however, the various forms of cancer were by far the most common cause of mortality, accounting for 29% of registered deaths throughout the UK in 2013.

But even with all these threats and dangers we can take comfort in the fact that we can also expect the average life expectancy to continue to rise and the gap between men and women to edge closer.

The latest ONS figures measure the average UK life expectancy for men as 78.9 years and 82.9 for women.

Over the last thirty years these measures have risen by an average of six hours every day for men and four hours for women and the gap between the sexes has reduced from just over six years to four years.


Source: ONS, various



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