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Dementia deaths up in first months of pandemic


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Deaths due to dementia have been higher than average during the coronavirus pandemic, Office for National Statistics analysis has found.

The ONS figures suggest almost a third of deaths above the expected level for this time of year were not registered as being related to coronavirus,

Between 7 March and 1 May, recorded deaths were more than 50% higher than the five-year average.

Older age groups had the most elevated risk of dying from non-Covid-19 causes.

Of the deaths above the average level for this time of year, 12,900 (27.8%) did not involve coronavirus.

Deaths from asthma and diabetes also increased between 7 March, the first week in which a death involving Covid-19 was recorded, and 24 April.

This, coupled with the fact these deaths were increasingly happening outside hospital, could suggest the rise was down to a delay in care for these conditions, the ONS said.

But it could also be down to changes in how deaths are recorded.

There is not yet enough evidence to suggest the increase in non-Covid death registrations, could be linked to “reduced hospital capacity and increases in deaths caused by stress-related conditions,” according to the ONS.

This kind of analysis may not be possible for several months.

Deaths from coronary heart disease also increased from around mid-March. A previous ONS publication suggested these deaths were lower than average in April, but the picture has changed now more data is available.

But fewer people died of seasonal flu during the winter 2019-2020 than in the previous five years.

The increase in deaths unrelated to coronavirus mainly affected older age groups, and the effect increased with age.

Deaths of younger people, especially people aged between 10 and 39, were lower than the five-year average between mid-March and the beginning of May.

Although the ONS cautioned that deaths in these age-groups often require a coroner’s inquest to determine the cause meaning registration may happen several months after the date of death. That includes deaths from suicide, injury and violence.

The biggest increase in “excess deaths” – those above the five-year average – were in London and the West Midlands.

The ONS stopped short of drawing a causal link, but pointed out that these are the regions with the highest proportion of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds who have been disproportionately affected by the virus. These regions also had bigger increases in non-Covid deaths.

But it also pointed out that some of these “non-Covid” deaths, particularly outside hospital, might be down a lack of testing in these settings. So some of them could be unidentified coronavirus cases.



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