Cancer and chronic diseases account for more than two in five deaths, researchers have found.
Deaths attributable to such diseases account for 42% of all deaths, figures suggest.
Researchers at the Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands examined the death certificates of 4.8 million people across the 27 European Union countries. Of those deaths, 2.02 million died of cancer and chronic diseases such as heart failure, lung disease and dementia.
Because such illnesses are more common in those over the age of 65, policy makers need to develop long and short-term palliative care strategies to cope with the burden of these diseases, the authors said.
The research, published in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, found that for those over the age of 65, cancer and chronic disease accounts for 1,783 deaths per 100,000 people.
Across the population as a whole, the figure is just 409 deaths per 100,000.
As the population ages, the numbers of people dying of cancer and chronic disease is going to increase, requiring palliative care strategies and facilities to improve the quality of life, the authors conclude.
Tes Smith, social care programme manager of Macmillan Cancer Support, added: “A shift in the way end of life care is provided is vital.
“With the right support, 73% of people with cancer would prefer to die at home. Currently only 27% are able to do so.
“An ever more stretched NHS is having to meet the rising demand for expensive hospital beds because this choice is not currently realistic for many people.
“Free social care at the end of life and 24/7 community nursing for people in the last weeks and months of their lives would go a long way to making this choice a reality; freeing up desperately needed funds for the NHS and, more importantly, granting patients their dying wish.”