Background: In the United Kingdom, overall stroke mortality has declined. A similar trend has been seen in coronary heart disease, although recent reports suggest this decline might be levelling off in middle-aged adults.
Aim: To investigate recent trends in stroke mortality amongst those aged 40–69 years in England.
Methods: We used routine annual aggregated stroke death and population data for England for the years 1979–2005 to investigate time trends in gender-specific mortality rates for adults aged 40 to 69 years. We applied log-linear modelling to isolate effects attributable to age, linear ‘drift’ over time, time period and birth cohort.
Results: Between 1979 and 2005, age-standardised stroke mortality aged 40 to 69 years dropped from 93 to 30 per 100,000 in men and from 62 to 18 per 100,000 in women. Mortality was higher in older age groups, but the difference between the older and younger age groups appears to have decreased over time for both sexes. Modelling of the data suggests an average annual reduction in stroke deaths of 4•0% in men and 4•3% in women, although this decrease has been particularly marked in the last few years. However, we also observed a relative rate increase in mortality amongst those born since the mid-1940s compared with earlier cohorts; this appears to have been sustained in men, which explains the levelling off in the rate of mortality decline observed in recent years in the younger middle-aged.
Conclusions: If observed trends in middle-aged adults continue, overall stroke mortality rates may start to increase again.