Death Rates in America and How Dementia Fits In

Death Rates in America and How Dementia Fits In

As the aging population in the United States continues to grow, it’s worth looking at the causes of death in the country and how they have changed over time. Bloomberg published an interactive slideshow of graphs recently that details just that and helps people understand the changes in mortality over the past few decades and how dementia fits in.

Mortality Rates in the US in 2015

The slideshow is titled “How Americans Die”. It’s not a cheery name by any means, but it delves into some important information and statistics that show the current status of death in our nation. Data used in the slideshow is attributed to the Centers for Disease Control and is formatted in a number of different ways that demonstrate the changing trends throughout America.

Between 1968 and 2010, the mortality rate in the United States fell 17%, most of which can be attributed to improved survival chances for men, who have perpetually fallen behind women in average life span. The progress seemingly stopped in the mid-1990s, though, which raises the question of why the mortality rate stopped falling when health care technology continues to improve. In reality, though, that’s actually the reason: thanks to improved health care, the population has aged extensively since the 60s and 70s.

The populations that have seen the most growth is that of individuals aged 75 and older and those between the ages of 55 and 64 years old. According to the slideshow, “improvements in life expectancy have been broad-based and ongoing.”

Living Longer, Developing Dementia

The good news is that most Americans are living longer and dying of natural causes, but the bad news is that living longer significantly increases the chances of developing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Almost one-third (27%) of all deaths in the United States are of people aged 85 and older. Another 29% of deaths represent those aged 75-84, and people aged 65-74 make up nearly 19% of total deaths in the country.

Alzheimer’s is taking a big toll on the aging population in the United States, with the deaths attributed to the disease rising rather quickly. According to the CDC data, in 1970, just 255 people died from Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. In 1980, that number was up to 2,705, and increased nearly tenfold in 1990 to 21,059. By 2000, 84,893 Americans died from Alzheimer’s that year, and the number more than doubled by 2010, when Alzheimer’s disease killed 180,021 individuals in the United States.

Because Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia take so long to cause death in the victim, health care costs for those diseases have substantially increased in recent years. 40% of the total increase in Medicare spending since 2011 is attributed to the cost of treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. In 2011, annual Medicare spending on dementia grew by $11.5 billion. In 2012, the increase in Medicare spending on Alzheimer’s was much less, just $2.5 billion, but it rose again in 2013, when it increased by $6 billion.

Spending on Long Term Care

Despite this increase in Medicare spending on treatment for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, the overall share of US healthcare spending on long term care costs, such as those that go towards nursing home care and other kinds of retirement homes, has gone down slightly since 2000 and remained constant since 2006.

Because Americans are living longer, their chances of needing long term care are also increasing. Whether it’s for Alzheimer’s, heart disease, stroke, or simple frailty, government studies estimate that 2 in 3 Americans over the age of 65 will need long term care at some point in their lives. It might be just for a short time or it might be for an extended period of time, several months or even years. This care can be shockingly expensive, too. A recent report released by one of the leading Long Term Care Insurance providers in the nation found that the median cost for one year in a nursing home in the US has reached $87,600. It’s not something that most people can afford without planning ahead, which is why considering how much your health care costs in retirement will be is vital to planning for those years.

Aging Americans face issues that previous generations didn’t: higher risk of dementia, greater chance of needing extended care, and an increased risk of running out of money in retirement. Find out more about planning for these costs here or read more about the link between dementia and long term care.

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