Number of dementia-related deaths increased to 12.5 thousand

Today, Statistics Netherlands reports that 12.5 thousand Dutch people died from the effects of dementia last year. The number of dementia-related deaths has tripled since 1996.

Dementia is a major cause of death

Dementia is a major cause of death in the Netherlands. For comparison: in the same year, 10.3 thousand Dutch people died from lung cancer while 8.9 thousand died from a heart attack. In the advanced stages of dementia, the disease affects swallowing, breathing or bladder reflexes, causing eating and drinking problems or infections which could result in death. Almost 70 percent of dementia-related deaths are women, largely due to the fact that women generally live longer than men. There are currently over 260 thousand people in the Netherlands suffering from dementia.

Increase related to ageing population, better care and registration

Dementia-related mortality has increased since 1996 from 4.4 thousand to 12.5 thousand cases in 2014. The classification of causes of mortality was last revised in 1996. Fifty percent of the increase can be attributed to the ageing of the Dutch population. If age composition had remained unchanged between 1996 and 2014, death from dementia would more or less have doubled (see graph).

Dementia-related deaths

Another explanation for the increase are the advances in medical treatment, which lower mortality caused by cardiovascular diseases and cancer, but raise mortality from age-related diseases such as dementia. Furthermore, registration of dementia as the main cause of death has improved. Statistics Netherlands started complying with international agreements for the coding of dementia in 2013, which resulted in figures suddenly increasing by over 20 percent. This increase was not real growth but due to the fact that dementia was listed as main cause of death instead of pneumonia or bladder infection, for example, much more often than before 2013.

Source: WHO, Dementia fact sheet, Maart 2015