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June 9, 2014

How (and where) centenarians die

Daily Briefing

    People who make it to age 100 tend to die from pneumonia or general frailty, while the rest of the population is more likely to die of cancer or heart disease, according to a new study in PLOS Medicine.

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    How centenarians die

    For the study, researchers examined the death records of people who died in the U.K. between 2001 and 2010. They focused on a group of 35,867 people who died between ages 100 and 115.

    Overall, they found that the number of centenarians' deaths in England increased by 56% in just 10 years. More than 87% of the centenarians were women.

    The researchers found that about 90% of centenarians died of these seven ailments:

    • "Old age" (28%)
    • Pneumonia (17%)
    • Cerebrovascular (10%)
    • Other circulatory problems (10%)
    • Ischemic heart disease (9%)
    • Other respiratory problems (6%)
    • Dementia (6%)
    • Cancer (4%)

    By comparison, just 6% of people who die between ages 80 and 84 did so from pneumonia, while 24% of them died from cancer and 19% died from ischemic heart disease. Less than 1% of deaths that occur between ages 80 and 84 were attributed to old age.

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    Where centenarians die

    The study found that 61% of centenarians died in care homes, while 27% died in hospitals. Only 10% died at home.

    Ronald Adelman, the medical director of Cornell's Wright Center on Aging, "[W]hen you look at centenarians, that really is an expanding group, and the important thing is to get their advance directives, to make sure these people express how they want to be treated in their later years, so they can live a better quality of life and be more comfortable. Where do they want to live, how do they want to live and what's best for them?"

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    One-third of people born in the United Kingdom in 2013 are expected to live until age 100, per Britain's Office for National Statistics. According to CNN, the age trends in the United States are similar (Chistensen/Willingham, CNN, 6/4; Evans et al., PLOS Medicine, June 2014).

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    1. Current ArticleHow (and where) centenarians die

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