The number of people who die from dementia is set to rocket over the coming years, a new study has found.
By 2040, it is estimated that 219,409 people in England and Wales will die from dementia – a significant rise from 59,199 in 2014.
Increasing deaths from the health condition will contribute to a large number of people who will need end-of-life care, researchers added.
As such, they have called for urgent action to address the growing need for end-of-life care services.
The study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, saw experts analyse mortality statistics for England and Wales from 2006 to 2014.
Researchers from the Cicely Saunders Institute at King’s College London then calculated the proportion of people who need palliative care, and corresponding rises over the nine-year period.
They estimated that by 2040, the annual number of deaths in England and Wales will rise by 25.4% to 628,659.
As well as predicting soaring numbers of deaths from dementia, researchers also estimated that by 2040, the number of deaths from cancer will increase from 143,638 to 208,636.
They concluded palliative care needs will rise by 42.4% by 2040. This means 160,000 more people in England and Wales will need such care by 2040.
At present, it is estimated three-quarters of people need some level of palliative care, but researchers believe this will rise to 85% in the coming 23 years.
“By 2040, national data suggests there will be a rise in the prevalence of chronic progressive illnesses, and we believe that many of these will require symptom relief and palliative care,” said lead author Dr Simon Noah Etkind from the Cicely Saunders Institute.
“We estimate that at least 85% of deaths in 2040 will require some form of palliative care and we can predict a shift towards dementia as a greater contributor to palliative care need.”
Co-author Professor Irene Higginson added: “There is an urgent need to act now to transform health, social and palliative care services to meet the projected growth in palliative care need.”
Commenting on the study, Simon Jones, from the charity Marie Curie, which provides care and support for people with terminal illnesses, said: “We need to radically rethink how we care for people at the end of their lives, to ensure everyone with a terminal illness gets the range of support they need, when they need it.
“We need to start that process now, before we reach crisis point.”
Alzheimer’s Society director of campaigns and partnerships Rob Burley said: “Dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer.
“It is the only leading cause of death that we can’t cure, prevent or slow down.
“This predicted fourfold increase in dementia deaths is a wake-up call to provide more dementia-appropriate palliative care services in the community.”
Dr Matthew Norton, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The figures from this study are very alarming, but we can prevent this becoming the reality if we invest now in pioneering research.”