CDC Report: U.S. Alzheimer’s Deaths Jump 55%

Causes include growing population of older adults

Death rates from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) increased 55% between 1999 and 2014, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number of AD deaths at home also increased during the same period, from 14% to 25%, suggesting an increase in the number of caregivers who would benefit from support, including education and case-management services.

“Millions of Americans and their family members are profoundly affected by Alzheimer’s disease,” said the CDC’s acting director, Anne Schuchat, MD. “Our new study reveals an increase in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease-related deaths. As the number of older Americans with Alzheimer’s disease rises, more family members are taking on the emotionally and physically challenging role of caregiver than ever before. These families need and deserve our support.”

The study was the first to provide county-level rates for deaths caused by AD. CDC researchers analyzed state- and county-level death-certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System to identify deaths with AD reported as the underlying cause. According to the analysis, possible reasons for the increase include the growing population of older adults in the U.S.; increased diagnosis of AD at earlier stages; increased reporting by physicians and others who record the cause of death; and fewer deaths from other causes in the elderly, such as heart disease and stroke.

Key findings from the analysis include:

  • The death rate increased 55%—from 16.5 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 25.4 per 100,000 people in 2014 after accounting for age.
  • Most AD deaths still occur in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, but fewer in 2014 (54%) than in 1999 (68%).
  • Counties with the highest death rates were primarily in the Southeast; other areas with high rates included the Midwest and West Coast.

AD is a fatal form of dementia. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 3.6% of all deaths in 2014. It is the fifth leading cause of death among people 65 years of age and older in the U.S.

“As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, caregiving becomes very important. Caregivers and patients can benefit from programs that include education about Alzheimer’s disease; how to take care of themselves and their loved one; and case management to lessen the burden of care,” said lead author Christopher Taylor, PhD. “Supportive interventions can lessen the burden for caregivers and improve the quality of care for people with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Source: CDC; May 25, 2017.