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3303.0 - Causes of Death, Australia, 2009 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 03/05/2011   
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Age-specific death rate

Age-specific death rates (ASDRs) are the number of deaths (occurred or registered) during the reference year at a specified age per 100,000 of the estimated resident population of the same age at the mid-point of the year (30 June). Pro rata adjustment is made in respect of deaths for which the age of the deceased is not given. ASDR for deaths under 1 year of age are calculated based on 1,000 live births for that year.

Associated causes

All causes listed on a death certificate other than the underlying cause.

Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC)

The ASGC provides a common framework of statistical geography and thereby enables the production of statistics which are comparable and can be spatially integrated. See Explanatory Notes 18-19 for more information.

Cause of death

The causes of death to be entered on the medical certificate of cause of death are all those diseases, morbid conditions or injuries which either resulted in or contributed to death and the circumstances of the accident or violence that produced any such injuries.

Certifier type

Deaths may be certified by either a medical practitioner, using the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, or a coroner. Natural causes are predominantly certified by doctors, whereas external and unknown causes are usually certified by a coroner. However, some deaths for natural causes are referred to coroners for investigation, for example unaccompanied deaths.


From 2007 data cells with small values have been randomly assigned to protect confidentiality. As a result some totals will not equal the sum of their components. It is important to note that cells with 0 values have not been affected by confidentialisation.

Coroner certified deaths

Deaths which were certified by a coroner. Deaths certified by a coroner represent 10-15% of all deaths each year. Coroner cases remain open while cause of death investigations are undertaken and are closed when coronial investigations are complete. Following completion, causes of death information is passed to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, as well as to the National Coroners Information System (NCIS). All coroner certified deaths registered after 01 January 2007 are subject to a revisions process. For more information see Technical Note: Causes of Death Revisions and Explanatory Notes 28-32.

Country of birth

The classification of countries used is the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC). For more detailed information refer to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC) (cat. no. 1269.0).

Crude death rate

The crude death rate (CDR) is the number of deaths registered during the reference year per 100,000 estimated resident population at 30 June.


Are a series of spreadsheets which present causes of death data. Causes of Death datacubes can be found on the web page under the Downloads tab. See iNote for Datacubes for more information on Cause of Death datacubes.


Death is the permanent disappearance of all evidence of life after birth has taken place. The definition excludes all deaths prior to live birth. For the purposes of the Deaths and Causes of Death collections of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), a death refers to any death which occurs in, or en route to, Australia and is registered with a state or territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Doctor certified deaths

Deaths which were certified by a doctor or medical practitioner, which were not required to be referred on to a coroner. Deaths certified by a doctor represent 85-90% of all deaths each year. Doctor certified deaths are not subject to the revisions process.

Estimated resident population (ERP)

The official measure of the population of Australia is based on the concept of residence. It refers to all people, regardless of nationality or citizenship, who usually live in Australia, with the exception of foreign diplomatic personnel and their families. It includes usual residents who are overseas for less than 12 months. It excludes overseas visitors who are in Australia for less than 12 months.

External causes of death

Deaths due to causes external to the body (for example suicide, transport accidents, falls, poisoning etc). ICD-10 codes V01-Y98.

External territories

Australian external territories include Australian Antarctic Territory, Coral Sea Islands Territory, Norfolk Island, Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands, and Territory of Heard and McDonald Islands.


International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. The purpose of the ICD is to permit the systematic recording, analysis, interpretation and comparison of mortality and morbidity data collected in different countries or areas and at different times. The ICD, which is endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is primarily designed for the classification of diseases and injuries with a formal diagnosis. The ICD-10 is the current classification system, which is structured using an alphanumeric coding scheme. Each disease or health condition (as identified by a doctor or coroner) is assigned an identification code. Cause of death statistics can be produced for aggregates of these, for example, chapter level (letter), 2-digit code (first two numbers of the assigned code), and 3-digit code (three numbers of the assigned code). See Explanatory Notes 23-27 for more information on ICD. Further information is available from the WHO website.


Persons who identify themselves as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.

Indigenous death

The death of a person who is identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) origin on the Death Registration Form (DRF). From 2007, Indigenous origin for deaths registered in South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory is also derived from the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD).

Indirect standardised death rate (ISDR)

See Standardised death rate (SDR).

Infant death

An infant death is the death of a live born child who dies before reaching his/her first birthday.


The manner or 'intent' of an injury which leads to death, is determined by whether the injury was inflicted purposefully or not (in some cases, intent cannot be determined). The determination of 'intent' for each death is essential for determining the appropriate ICD-10 code to use for a death. See Explanatory Note 84 for more information.

Leading causes of death

Ranking causes of death is a useful method of describing patterns of mortality in a population and allows comparison over time and between populations. The ranking of leading causes of death in this publication is based on research presented in the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation, Volume 84, Number 4, April 2006, 297-304 (see Explanatory Notes 39-41 for further information).

Mechanism of death

Mechanism of external cause of death by which a person may die include: poisoning; hanging and other threats to breathing; drowning and submersion; firearms; contact with sharp object; and falls.

Median age at death

This refers to the age at death at the 50th percentile for the relevant demographic group.

Morbid train of events

The events and diseases which lead to death.



Multiple causes of death

All morbid conditions, diseases and injuries entered on the death certificate. These include those involved in the morbid train of events leading to death which were classified as either the underlying cause, the immediate cause, or any intervening causes and those conditions which contributed to death, but were not related to the disease or condition causing death. For deaths where the underlying cause was identified as an external cause (for example, injury or poisoning, etc) multiple causes include circumstances of injury and the nature of injury, as well as any other conditions reported on the death certificate.

National Coroners Information System (NCIS)

The NCIS is a national data storage system which contains information about all deaths referred to a coroner since July 2000 (January 2001 for Queensland).

Natural cause of death

Deaths due to diseases (for example diabetes, cancer, heart disease etc) which are not external or unknown.

Neonatal period

The neonatal period commences at birth and ends 28 completed days after birth.

Other territories

Following the 1992 amendments to the Acts Interpretation Act to include the Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands as part of geographic Australia, another category at the state and territory level has been created, known as Other Territories. Other Territories include Jervis Bay Territory, previously included with the Australian Capital Territory, as well as Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Perinatal death

A death that is either a fetal death (i.e. a death prior to the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother as a product of conception of 20 completed weeks of gestation or with a birth weight of at least 400 grams), or a neonatal death (i.e. death of a live born baby within 28 completed days of birth).

Rate ratio

Rate ratio is calculated by dividing the standardised death rate for one group (such as all persons with a usual residence of Queensland) by the standardised death rate for the total relevant population (such as all persons with a usual residence of Australia).

Reference year

The year that presented data refers to. For example, this publication presents data for the 2009 reference year, as well as some historical data for the 2000 to 2008 reference years. From 2007, data for a particular reference year includes all deaths registered in Australia for the reference year that are received by the ABS by the end of the March quarter of the subsequent year. For example, data for the 2009 reference year includes all deaths registered in Australia for 2009 that were received by the ABS by the end of March 2010. See Explanatory Notes 8-14 for more information about scope and coverage.

Registration year

Data presented on a year of registration basis relate to the date the death was registered with the relevant state or territory Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. In most cases the year of registration and year of occurrence for a particular death will be the same, but in some cases there may be a delay between occurrence and registration of death. For more information see Chapter 8 Year of Occurrence.

Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages

Each state and territory has a Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. It is a legal requirement that all deaths are recorded by the relevant Registry for the state or territory in which the death occurred.

Reportable deaths

Deaths which are reported to a coroner. See Explanatory Note 2 for further information on what constitutes a reportable death.

Revisions process

When additional information about an open coroner certified death is received by the ABS, a more specific ICD-10 code may be applied, thereby revising the cause of death. See Explanatory Notes 28-32 and Technical Note: Causes of Death Revisions for further information on the revisions process and the impact on specific years' data.

Sex ratio

The number of males per 100 females. The sex ratio is defined for total population, at birth, at death and among age groups by appropriately selecting the numerator and denominator of the ratio.

Standardised death rate (SDR)

Standardised death rates (SDRs) enable the comparison of death rates between populations with different age structures by relating them to a standard population. The ABS standard populations relate to the years ending in 1 (e.g. 2001). The current standard population is all persons in the Australian population at 30 June 2001. SDRs are expressed per 1,000 or 100,000 persons. There are two methods of calculating standardised death rates:

The direct method - this is used when the populations under study are large and the age-specific death rates are reliable. It is the overall death rate that would have prevailed in the standard population if it had experienced at each age the death rates of the population under study.

The indirect method - this is used when the populations under study are small and the age-specific death rates are unreliable or not known. It is an adjustment to the crude death rate of the standard population to account for the variation between the actual number of deaths in the population under study and the number of deaths which would have occurred if the population under study had experienced the age-specific death rates of the standard population.

SDRs throughout this publication have been calculated using the direct method.

State or territory of registration

The state or territory in which the death was registered. It is the state in which the death occurred, but is not necessarily the deceased's state or territory of usual residence.

State or territory of usual residence

The state or territory in which the person has lived or intended to live for a total of six months or more in a given reference year.

Underlying cause of death

The disease or injury which initiated the train of morbid events leading directly to 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.

Unknown cause of death

Deaths for which it is not possible to determine between a natural and an external cause.

Usual residence

Usual residence within Australia refers to that address at which the person has lived or intended to live for a total of six months or more in a given reference year.

Year of occurrence

Data presented on a year of occurrence basis relate to the date the death occurred rather than when it was registered with the relevant state or territory Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. See Explanatory Note 14 and Chapter 8 Year of Occurrence for more information.

Years of potential life lost (YPLL)

YPLL measures the extent of premature mortality, where premature mortality is assumed to be any death at ages of 1-78 years inclusive. By estimating YPLL for deaths of people aged 1-78 years it is possible to assess the significance of specific diseases or trauma as a cause of premature death. See Explanatory Notes 42-45 for an explanation of the calculation of YPLL.

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