More deaths were registered in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in 2022 than in any year since the pandemic began, new figures show.
Despite this, Covid-19 dropped out of the top five leading causes of death across England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics figures outline.
Nationally, coronavirus accounted for 12.1% and 11.5% of all registered deaths in 2020 and 2021 respectively, but this dropped to just 3.9% in 2022, making it the sixth-highest cause of death.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease led the way, accounting for 65,967 deaths (11.4%), up from 61,250 (10.4%) in 2021.
Alzheimer’s Research UK described the figures as “a stark reminder of the terrible and far-reaching effects of dementia on our society”.
The ONS data shows 6,972 total deaths were registered in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in 2022 – up from 6,889 the year before.
It means more deaths were registered in 2022 than in any other year since the pandemic.
In 2019, 6,180 deaths were registered, while this rose to 6,552 in 2020.
Covid-19 levels among the population of England and Wales reached record highs last year, as new variants of the virus saw the estimated number of weekly infections hit 3.9 million in early January and 4.4 million at the end of March.
The fact that 2022 saw a fall in Covid-19 deaths, not a rise, reflects the success of the vaccination programme, which has reduced sharply the number of infected people who go on to become seriously ill or die.
Vaccines were first rolled out across the country in early 2021, with booster doses subsequently made available to older and vulnerable groups.
Samantha Benham-Hermetz, director of policy and public affairs at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Our most recent survey showed that two in 10 people are unaware that dementia is even a cause of death, yet last year it claimed nearly 66,000 lives in England and Wales alone.
“Despite its devastating impact, and in contrast with other leading causes of death like heart disease or cancer, there are still no treatments available on the NHS that can slow or stop it.
“As the impact of the pandemic recedes, we must learn from the lessons of Covid-19 and speed up progress in finding new ways to treat, diagnose and prevent dementia.”
Sarah Caul, ONS head of mortality analysis, said the figures represent a “significant change” in the leading causes of death since the beginning of the pandemic.
“For the third year in a row, we’ve seen more males than females dying, a reversal of the trend since the 1980s,” she added.
Some 292,064 male deaths were registered in England and Wales last year, compared with 285,096 female deaths.