3303.0.55.001 - Causes of Death, Australia: Summary Tables, 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/12/2004   
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1 This publication contains summary statistics on causes of death for the general population, together with selected statistics on perinatal deaths. The registration of deaths is the responsibility of the individual state and territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages. As part of the registration process, information as to the cause of death is supplied by the medical practitioner certifying the death or by a coroner. Other information about the deceased is supplied by a relative or other person acquainted with the deceased, or by an official of the institution where the death occurred. This information is provided to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) by individual Registrars for coding and compilation into aggregate statistics shown in this publication. In addition the ABS supplements this data with information from the National Coroners Information System (NCIS). Statistics of perinatal deaths for years prior to 1994 were published separately in Perinatal Deaths, Australia (cat. no. 3304.0), which has been discontinued.


2 The statistics in tables 1, 2 and 3 relate to the number of deaths registered, not those which actually occurred, in the years shown. Usually between 5% to 6% of deaths occurring in one year are not registered until the following year or later.

Terrorism Related Deaths

3 The ABS deaths collection includes all deaths that occurred and were registered in Australia including deaths of persons whose usual residence is overseas. Deaths of Australian residents that occurred outside Australia may be registered by individual Registrars, but are not included in the ABS statistics.

4 As deaths of Australian residents which occurred outside Australia are not within the scope of the collection, most of the Australian fatalities of the Bali bombing were excluded from these statistics. Only 8 victims of the Bali bombing died after arrival or en route to Australia, and these have been included in the statistics in 2002. This number includes 2 overseas residents. Under the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health problems tenth revision (ICD-10), these deaths have been coded to X96 (Assault by explosive material).

5 After the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in the USA assigned preliminary codes within the ICD-10 classification for deaths by terrorism. To classify a death as terrorist-related in the USA, it is necessary for the incident to be designated as such by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The ABS has not adopted the preliminary terrorism codes but has coded these deaths using the standard ICD-10 classification and coding rules. If the terrorism codes were to be used and the Bali bombing was classified as a terrorist related incident these deaths would have been classified as U01.2 (Terrorism involving other explosives and fragments).

Perinatal death statistics

6 The perinatal death statistics contained in this publication, unless otherwise stated, include all fetuses and infants delivered weighing at least 400 grams or (when birthweight is unavailable) the corresponding gestational age (20 weeks), whether alive or dead. This definition recognises the availability of reliable 400 grams/20 weeks data from all state and territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages and recommendations from major users that the ABS adopt the legal requirement for registration of a perinatal death as the statistical standard.

7 For 1996 and previous editions of Deaths, Australia (cat 3303.0) data relating to perinatal deaths were based upon the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended definition for compiling national perinatal statistics. The WHO definition of perinatal deaths included infants and fetuses weighing at least 500 grams or having a gestational age of 22 weeks or body length of 25 centimetres crown-heel.

8 The birth statistics used to calculate the perinatal and neonatal death rates in this publication are based on registered live birth statistics and stillbirth statistics adjusted to exclude infants who are known to have weighed under 400 grams. Such births are identified from the medical certificate of perinatal death, which records birthweight.

9 The adjusted birth statistics differ from the statistics published in Births, Australia (cat. no. 3301.0), which are unadjusted for birthweight, i.e. have not had births known to have weighed less than 400 grams excluded. For years 1993 to 1996, births which occurred in Other Territories were excluded from adjusted live births used in calculating perinatal rates.


10 The tenth revision of the International Classification of Diseases and Health Related Problems (ICD-10) was adopted for Australian use for deaths registered from 1 January 1999. In this publication, underlying cause data for 2001 to 2003 have been coded to the tenth revision. All multiple cause data in this publication are coded to the tenth revision (see Glossary for definition of underlying and multiple cause). For underlying cause of death, accidental and violent deaths are classified according to the external cause, that is, to the circumstances of the accident or violence which produced the fatal injury rather than to the nature of the injury.

11 The extensive nature of the ICD enables classification of causes of death at various levels of detail. For the purpose of this publication, one summary classifications are used. It is the ICD at the chapter level (with further disaggregation for major causes of death).

12 Table 1 presents statistics at the ICD chapter level with further disaggregation for major causes of death. Background on this summary classification is given in Volume 1 of the ICD.

13 To enable the reader to see the relationship between the various summary classifications used in this publication, all tables show in brackets the ICD codes which constitute the causes of death covered.

14 All data in this publication refer to AIDS-related deaths rather than only those deaths where AIDS is the underlying cause. Hence in table 1, AIDS-related deaths differ from the data provided for all other causes in that table since for all other causes, only data for underlying cause are given.


15 In compiling these statistics, the ABS employs a variety of quality control measures to ensure that the statistics are as reliable as possible. These measures include: seeking further information where necessary to enable accurate classification of the underlying cause of death; check-coding of cause of death; detailed computer editing of data; and checks on the statistical output, at the individual record and aggregate levels.

16 To assist certifiers in providing accurate and comprehensive information for mortality coding, the ABS provides certification booklets for guidance in the completion of medical certificates of cause of death.


17 The ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated: without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.


18 Other available ABS products which may be of interest include:

    AusStats - electronic data (see Explanatory Note 25)
    Australian Social Trends, cat. no. 4102.0 - issued annually
    Births, Australia, cat. no. 3301.0 - issued annually
    Causes of Death, Australia, cat. no. 3303.0 - issued annually - 2003 issue to be released 24 February 2005
    Causes of Infant and Child Deaths, Australia, 1982-96, cat. no. 4398.0 - issued irregularly - discontinued
    Deaths, Australia, cat. no. 3302.0 - issued annually
    Deaths due to Diseases and Cancers of the Respiratory System, Australia, 1979-1994, cat. no. 3314.0 - issued irregularly
    Drug Induced Deaths, cat. no. 3321.0.55.001 - single issue
    Information Paper: Drug-induced Deaths - A Guide to ABS Causes of Death Data, cat. no. 4809.0 - single issue
    Information Paper: Multiple Cause of Death Analysis, cat. no. 3319.0.55.001 - issued irregularly
    Mortality Atlas Australia 1997-2000, cat. no. 3318.0 - single issue
    Suicides, Australia, 1921-1998, cat. no. 3309.0 - issued irregularly
    Suicides: Recent Trends Australia 1993 - 2003, cat. no. 3309.0.55.001 - issued irregularly

19 AusStats is a web based information service which provides the ABS full standard product range on line. It also includes companion data in multidimensional datasets in SuperTable format, and time series spreadsheets.

20 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are listed in the Catalogue of Publications and Products (cat. no. 1101.0). The catalogue is available from any ABS office on this site. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the web site which details products to be released in the week ahead.

21 As well as the statistics included in this and related publications, additional information is available from this web site by accessing Themes/Health.


22 More detailed cause of death information is available upon request from the ABS. This information can comprise standard tables or customised tabulations (by hardcopy or electronic media). Unit record files are available to approved users upon application. Generally, a charge is made for providing information upon request.

23 Perinatal tabulations for Australia based on WHO national (see Explanatory Notes, paragraph 7) and international definitions are available upon request. The WHO international definition comprises all fetuses and infants (who die within seven days of birth) weighing at least 1,000 grams or (when birthweight is unavailable) having the corresponding gestational age (28 weeks) or body length (35 centimetres crown-heel). A charge is made for providing this information.

24 For more information about cause of death statistics or data concepts contact Peter Burke on 1800 620 963.


25 Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between totals and sums of the component items.