In 2015 the number of deaths in the England and Wales rose at the sharpest rate since 1968 due to an increase in dementia and Alzheimer related deaths, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The number of registered deaths rose 5.6 per cent to 529,613 in 2015, the highest since 2003, and the steepest rise in 47 years, writes Joel Lewin.

Funeral service providers such as the Co-op and Dignity have profited handsomely from the rise in deaths. Today the Co-op reported a 9.9 per cent rise in funeral sales, and said it intends to pepper the UK with a further 200 funeral homes over the next three years.

Some 86 per cent of the extra deaths afflicted people over 75, and 38 per cent hit people over 90.

The rise in deaths means life expectancy has dropped 0.2 years to 79.3 for men, and has fallen 0.3 years for women to 82.9.

Claudia Wells, head of mortality analysis at the ONS, said:

The majority of the increase in deaths in 2015 happened during the first few months of the year, coinciding with an increase in hospital admissions for flu and reports of numerous outbreaks of the virus in care homes. Respiratory diseases, such as flu, were also mentioned in a third of deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s last year.

The number of deaths where dementia and Alzheimer’s were listed as the underlying cause have been steadily increasing over the last 15 years, but were well above the 5 year average in 2015.

Professor John Newton, Chief Knowledge Officer at Public Health England said:

The population is ageing and we are seeing more people diagnosed and living with illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in later life.

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