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CAUSES OF DEATH
Causes of death data are a significant and important input to health and social policy formulation and planning as well as health related research and analysis. For example, causes of death data provides insight into the diseases and factors contributing to life expectancy, potentially avoidable deaths, years of life lost and leading causes of death. Causes of death statistics, together with statistics pertaining to births and deaths, make up the ’vital statistics’ component of Australia's civil registration system, providing an important foundation for both population statistics as well as health statistics. Australia, as a member state of the World Health Organisation (WHO), supplies data annually to the WHO on deaths by age, sex and cause of death, as compiled from the civil registration system by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
This publication presents statistics on the number of deaths for reference year by state or territory of Australia, sex, selected age groups, and causes of death classified to the WHO's International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Health Related Problems (ICD). Introduced in 1999, Version 10 of the ICD has been used to code causes of death data for the reference years 1997 onwards. For further information see Explanatory Notes 34-38.
In Australia, causes of death statistics are recorded as both underlying cause and multiple cause. The underlying cause is the disease or injury which initiated the train of morbid events leading directly to death. Multiple causes are all causes and conditions reported on the death certificate that contributed to, were associated with or were the underlying cause of the death (see Glossary for further details). Multiple causes of death data allow access to a greater range of detail in relation to some causes of death. Analysis of multiple causes of death data complements analyses of underlying cause and offers greater insight into the morbid processes at the end of life.
In 2012, there were 147,098 deaths registered in Australia, 166 (0.1%) more than the number registered in 2011 (146,932). The standardised death rate (SDR) decreased to 5.5 deaths per 1,000 standard population in 2012, down from 5.6 in 2011. Standardised death rates are calculated using the 2001 total population of Australia as the standard population (see Glossary for more information).
In 2012, males accounted for 50.8% (74,794) of registered deaths, a slightly higher proportion than females, who accounted for 49.2% of registered deaths (72,304).
The number of deaths for both males and females has increased compared with 2003 (68,330 and 63,962 respectively), but the increase has been larger for females. In 2003 there were 107 male deaths per 100 females. In 2012 this sex ratio dropped to 103 male deaths per 100 females.
Further details on numbers of deaths registered can be found in Deaths, Australia, 2012 (cat. no. 3302.0).
Ranking causes of death is a useful method of describing patterns of mortality in a population. The ABS ranks leading causes of death in this publication based on research presented in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Volume 84, Number 4, April 2006, 297-304, which provides a standard approach to presenting leading cause data and allows for international comparisons. For further information see Explanatory Notes 41-43.
In 2012, Ischaemic heart disease, defined as ICD-10 codes I20-I25, was the leading underlying cause of death in Australia. Ischaemic heart disease includes angina, blocked arteries (heart) and heart attacks. It was the underlying cause of 13.6% (20,046) of all registered deaths in Australia, accounting for 14.6% (10,907) of all male deaths, and 12.6% (9,139) of all female deaths registered in 2012. Ischaemic heart disease has been the leading cause of death in Australia since 2000, however, the proportion of deaths due to this cause has decreased from 19.2% (25,439) in 2003.
Cerebrovascular diseases (I60-I69) was the second leading cause of death, accounting for 7.3% (10,779) of deaths in 2012, while Dementia and Alzheimer's disease (F01, F03, G30) was the third leading cause, accounting for 7.0% (10,369) of deaths. The fourth leading cause of death was Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34) accounting for 5.5% (8,137) of deaths in 2012, while Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47) was the fifth leading cause accounting for 4.5% (6,649) of deaths.
Gender differences are evident in the order of leading causes of death. For both males and females, Ischaemic heart disease is the leading cause of death. However, for males, Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung is the second leading cause of death, while for females, Dementia and Alzheimer disease is the second leading cause.
The graph below shows the top 5 leading causes of death for males, females and persons from 2003 to 2012. Further information on leading cause of death for 2012 is presented in the Leading Causes of Death section of this publication.
Footnote(s): (a) Causes of death data for 2012 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See Explanatory Notes 29-33 and Technical Notes, Causes of Death Revisions 2006, in Causes of Death, Australia, 2010 (cat. no. 3303.0) and Causes of Death Revisions 2010 and 2011 in this publication.;(b) The causes listed in this graph are the five leading causes of death for males, females and total persons, based on the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Explanatory Notes 41-43 for further information.;(c) See Explanatory Notes 81-98 for further information on issues for consideration when interpreting time-series and 2012 data.
Underlying Causes of Death
The table below presents summary causes of death data for each major chapter of the ICD-10. Almost one third (29.9%) of all deaths in 2012 were assigned to the Diseases of the circulatory system (I00-I99) chapter, which accounted for 43,946 deaths. Neoplasms (C00-D48) also accounted for almost one third (29.6%) of deaths (43,505).
Further information on selected causes for 2012 is presented in the Underlying Causes of Death by Selected ICD-10 Chapters section of this publication.
Multiple causes of death include all causes and conditions reported on the death certificate (i.e. both underlying and associated causes; see Glossary for further details). For the 147,098 deaths registered in Australia in 2012, there were 465,047 causes reported giving a mean of 3.2 causes per death. The mean number of causes reported per death varies with age, sex and underlying cause of death. In 18.7% of all deaths, only one cause was reported, while 37.0% of deaths were reported with three or more causes.
Malignant cancers (C00-C97) contributed to 33.0% (48,598) of all deaths as either an underlying or multiple cause. Where the underlying cause of death was Malignant cancers, it was most commonly the only cause of death mentioned on the death certificate. Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25) contributed to 24.4% (35,946) of all deaths as either an underlying or multiple cause. Where the underlying cause of death was reported as Ischaemic heart diseases, Heart failure (I50-I51) and Hypertensive diseases (I10-I15) were most commonly mentioned as an associated cause. For deaths from Diabetes (E10-E14), Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25) were most commonly listed as an associated cause, and for deaths from Cerebrovascular diseases (I60-I69), the most common associated causes were Hypertensive diseases (I10-I15) and Dementia and Alzheimer's disease (F01, F03, G30).
For further detail on multiple cause, see the Multiple Causes of Death section of this publication.
All coroner certified deaths registered after 1 January 2006 are subject to a revisions process. For further information, see Explanatory Notes 29-33 and Technical Notes, Causes of Death Revisions, 2006 in Causes of Death, Australia, 2010 and Causes of Death Revisions, 2010 and 2011 in this publication.
For information regarding data quality, see Quality Declaration - Causes of Death Data, Summary, Quality Declaration - Perinatal Data, Summary and Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Persons.
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