Dementia rates on the rise

New Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals that dementia killed more than double the number of Australians in 2011 than it did in 2002. Meanwhile, deaths from heart disease have fallen steadily in the last decade.

By Yasmin Noone

Dementia killed twice as many Australians in 2011 than it did in 2002 and is now the number three cause of death in Australia, according to new Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures.

The ABS figures, released earlier this month, show that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were the sixth leading cause of death in 2002 and cause number four in 2006.

The most up-to-date ABS data available found that number of deaths from dementia rose from 4,364 in 2002 to 5,660 in 2006 and 8,864 in 2011.

Meanwhile, deaths from heart disease have fallen steadily since 2002 even though it is still the number one cause.

There were 21,513 deaths from heart disease in 2011. Heart disease accounted for 15 per cent of all deaths in 2011 compared to 19 per cent of all deaths in 2002.

“Heart disease has remained the leading cause of death in Australia over the last ten years and continued to be the leading cause in 2011,” director of the Health and Vitals Statistics Unit, James Eynstone-Hinkins, said.

“There were 9,864 deaths caused by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, comprising seven per cent of all deaths. Most of these deaths occurred in people aged 75 or over.

“Lung cancer made up six per cent of all deaths and 19 per cent of all deaths from cancer – making it the fourth leading cause of death for Australians in 2011.

“Prostate cancer was the fifth most common cause of death for men. Among women, breast cancer is the sixth most common cause of death.

“There were 1,530 deaths from falls among people aged 75 or over last year. This is a fourfold increase from the 2002 figure of 365. Women accounted for 57 per cent of these deaths.”

Diabetes dropped from the ninth spot in 2002 to number eight in 2006 and, in 2011, became Australia’s sixth leading cause of death.

“Overall, the death rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders was almost double that of non-Indigenous Australians.

“Deaths from diabetes were more common among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, ranking as the second most common cause of death.”

The ABS data also shows that dementia is the second leading cause of death in WA.

Alzheimer’s Australia WA (AAWA) CEO, Rhonda Parker, has called for action so that the health and care system is able to deliver adequate care to all those living with dementia.

“These results only confirm what we have known for sometime now, that dementia is not an epidemic that is coming, but that it is an epidemic that is upon us,” Ms Parker said.

“The prevalence of the disease is already overwhelming the capacity of the health and care system to adequately respond to the needs of the person with the diagnosis and their carer”.

She said that in Australia one person is diagnosed with dementia every six minutes and currently 29,600 West Australian are living with the disease.

AAWA believes steps need to be taken now to ensure that those with dementia and their families can be supported properly.

“Thousands of West Australians who have a loved one touched by dementia will know this disease is a personal tragedy,” Ms Parker said.

“We have to find better ways to care for the increasing numbers affected by it as well as finding the cause and the cure.

“International research has established that comprehensive care will reduce the impact of the disease on the sufferer, the carer and the health system.

“Problems such as an early and timely diagnosis, availability of comprehensive care addressing the various needs of those with different dementias, the support needs of carers, and the needs of those from the CALD and Indigenous communities are all challenges which need to be addressed with some urgency.”


Tags: aawa, abs, alzheimer, breast-cancer, cancer, cause-of-death, dementia, diabetes, heart-disease, prostate, wa,

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