3303.0 - Causes of Death, Australia, 2015 Quality Declaration 
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AUSTRALIA'S LEADING CAUSES OF DEATH, 2015

There were 159,052 deaths in Australia in 2015 (81,330 male and 77,722 female). The leading cause of death was Ischaemic heart disease with 19,777 deaths (see table 2.1). People who died from Ischaemic heart diseases in 2015 had a median age at death of 85.1 years. Ischaemic heart disease is a condition that affects the supply of blood to the heart, and includes acute myocardial infarction, angina and chronic ischaemic disease. Ischaemic heart disease has remained Australia's leading cause of death over the past decade, although the standardised death rate has decreased over this period (103.5 per 100,000 in 2006 to 66.1 per 100,000 in 2015).

Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, remains the second leading cause of death in 2015, with 12,625 deaths. Dementia has increased from 4.9% of all deaths in 2006 to 7.9% in 2015. Cerebrovascular diseases (6.8%), Cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung (5.3%) and Chronic lower respiratory diseases (5.0%) complete the top five leading causes of death, and in total these causes accounted for more than one-third (37.6%) of all deaths registered in 2015.

The ABS ranks leading causes of death in this publication based on research presented by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Volume 84, Number 4, April 2006, 297-304. Leading causes of death are tabulated based on the underlying cause of death. The underlying cause of death is defined by the World Health Organisation as the disease or external event which initiated the train of morbid events leading to death. The ABS also tabulates multiple causes of death, which incorporate all conditions on the death certificate. Multiple causes of death provide insights into diseases or injuries which are less likely to be an underlying cause of death, but are still significant health issues. Multiple cause analyses are provided in other chapters and data cubes of this publication.


2.1 LEADING CAUSES OF DEATH(a), Australia - Selected years - 2006, 2010, 2015(b)

2006
2010
2015
Median Age (2015)
Cause of death and ICD code
no.
Rank
no.
Rank
no.
Rank
years

Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)
23 132
1
21 721
1
19 777
1
85.1
Dementia, including Alzheimer disease (F01, F03, G30)
6 550
4
9 003
3
12 625
2
88.6
Cerebrovascular diseases (I60-I69)
11 479
2
11 200
2
10 869
3
86.6
Trachea, bronchus and lung cancer (C33-C34)
7 353
3
8 102
4
8 466
4
73.5
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47)
5 463
5
6 129
5
7 991
5
81.7
Diabetes (E10-E14)
3 669
8
3 948
7
4 662
6
82.1
Colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus cancer (C18-C21)
3 857
6
4 061
6
4 433
7
76.0
Blood and lymph cancer (including leukaemia) (C81-C96)
3 700
7
3 936
8
4 412
8
77.5
Heart failure (I50-I51)
2 902
11
3 470
9
3 541
9
88.2
Diseases of the urinary system (N00-N39)
3 197
9
3 315
10
3 433
10
86.9
Prostate cancer (C61)
2 951
10
3 236
11
3 195
11
82.4
Influenza and pneumonia (J09-J18)
2 711
12
2 373
15
3 042
12
88.6
Intentional self-harm (X60-X84)(c)
2 118
14
2 478
13
3 027
13
44.5
Breast cancer (C50)
2 643
13
2 866
12
2 967
14
70.7
Pancreatic cancer (C25)
2 077
15
2 434
14
2 760
15
75.1
Accidental falls (W00-W19)
1 288
20
1 691
18
2 474
16
87.0
Cardiac arrhythmias (I47-I49)
1 280
21
1 532
20
2 327
17
88.1
Hypertensive diseases (I10-I15)
1 500
18
1 732
17
2 285
18
88.3
Skin cancers (C43-C44)
1 648
17
1 897
16
2 162
19
76.4
Cirrhosis and other diseases of liver (K70-K76)
1 416
19
1 590
19
1 857
20
63.3

(a) Causes listed are the top 20 leading causes of death for 2015, based on the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Explanatory Notes 34-35 in this publication for further information. Groupings of deaths coded to Chapter XVIII: Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99) are not included in analysis, due to the unspecific nature of these causes. Furthermore, many deaths coded to this chapter are likely to be affected by revisions, and hence recoded to more specific causes of death as they progress through the revisions process.
(b) See Explanatory Notes 68-95 for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2015 data.
(c) Excludes Sequelae of suicide (Y87.0) as per the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See Explanatory Notes 85-93 in this publication.
    AUSTRALIA'S AGEING POPULATION AND CAUSES OF DEATH

    Globally, there are strong links between country incomes, the quality of healthcare systems, life expectancy and leading causes of death. WHO data shows that in low income countries, leading causes of death include many communicable diseases such as lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS and Diarrhoeal diseases. In contrast, leading causes for high income countries were primarily non-communicable diseases which affect mostly elderly people, such as heart disease, stroke and dementia (World Health Organisation).

    Australia is a high income country with a particularly high average life expectancy. Leading causes of death in Australia align closely with other high income countries, although dementia in Australia is ranked more highly (currently 2nd) than it is on average among other high income countries (currently 4th)(World Health Organisation). The proportion of elderly people in Australia has been increasing, and will continue to do so as life expectancy increases and medical treatments improve. This has implications for future health service planning, especially in relation to conditions such as heart disease, dementia and strokes which are common causes of death among elderly Australians.


    YEARS OF POTENTIAL LIFE LOST

    Counts of deaths provide one measure of the impact of particular diseases, but they do not take into account the ages at which deaths occur. Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) measures the extent of 'premature' mortality from specific diseases or trauma, counting the total number of years between age at death and an 'average' life expectancy for deaths that occur before that average age. In Australia, this is assumed to be any death between the ages of 1-78 years, inclusive.

    The graph below presents the YPLL count for the top 20 leading causes of death in 2015. While a cause of death may have a lower incidence than that of another, its impact when measured in terms of premature death may be greater as a result of that cause affecting a younger demographic. Intentional self-harm accounted for 1.9% of all deaths, while Ischaemic heart diseases accounted for 12.4%. However, with a median age at death of 44.5 years, intentional self-harm contributed 10.7% of total YPLLs in 2015, compared to 7.8% from Ischaemic heart diseases, with a median age at death of 85.1 years.

    Graph Image for Leading causes of death and Years of Potential Life Lost, 2015 (a)(b)(c)(d)

    Footnote(s): (a) Causes listed are the 20 leading causes of death based on the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Explanatory Notes 34-35 for further information. Groupings of deaths coded to Chapter XVIII: Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99) are not included in analysis, due to the unspecific nature of these causes. Furthermore, many deaths coded to this chapter are likely to be affected by revisions, and hence recoded to more specific causes of death as they progress through the revisions process. (b) Causes of death data for 2015 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See Explanatory Notes 52-55 and A More Timely Annual Collection: Changes to ABS Processes (Technical Note) in this publication. (c) Excludes sequelae of intentional self-harm (Y87.0) as per the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See Explanatory Notes 85-93. (d) The ranking of YPLL data presented in this table is based only on the 20 causes listed. When considering the full listing of leading causes of death, including those not in the leading 20, the YPLL ranking would be different. See Explanatory Notes 36-39 for further information on Years of Potential Life Lost.

    Source(s): Leading causes of death and Years of Potential Life Lost, 2015 (a)(b)(c)(d)-Leading causes YPLLs for top 20



    LEADING CAUSES OF DEATH BY SEX

    Seven leading causes are common to both males and females, although only Ischaemic heart diseases share the same ranking in both sexes (1st). Malignant neoplasms of prostate (6th), Malignant neoplasms of lymphoid, haematopoietic and related tissue (7th) and Intentional self-harm (10th) are only represented within the male top 10 causes. Malignant neoplasms of breast (6th), Heart failure (9th) and Diseases of the urinary system (10th) are only represented in the female top 10 causes of death.

    Graph Image for Standardised death rates for leading causes of death in males, 2015 (a)(b)(c)

    Footnote(s): (a) Standardised death rates. Deaths per 100,000 of estimated mid-year population. See Glossary for further information. (b) Causes listed are the 10 leading causes of death for males, based on the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Explanatory Notes 34-35 for further information. Groupings of deaths coded to Chapter XVIII: Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99) are not included in analysis, due to the unspecific nature of these causes. Furthermore, many deaths coded to this chapter are likely to be affected by revisions, and hence recoded to more specific causes of death as they progress through the revisions process. (c) Causes of death data for 2015 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See Explanatory Notes 52-55 and A More Timely Annual Collection: Changes to ABS Processes (Technical Note) in this publication.

    Source(s): Standardised death rates for leading causes of death in males, 2015 (a)(b)(c)-Leading causes Top 10 SDRs Males



    Graph Image for Standardised death rates for leading causes of death in females, 2015 (a)(b)(c)

    Footnote(s): (a) Standardised death rates. Deaths per 100,000 of estimated mid-year population. See Glossary for further information. (b) Causes listed are the 10 leading causes of death for females, based on the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Explanatory Notes 34-35 for further information. Groupings of deaths coded to Chapter XVIII: Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99) are not included in analysis, due to the unspecific nature of these causes. Furthermore, many deaths coded to this chapter are likely to be affected by revisions, and hence recoded to more specific causes of death as they progress through the revisions process. (c) Causes of death data for 2015 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See Explanatory Notes 52-55 and A More Timely Annual Collection: Changes to ABS Processes (Technical Note) in this publication.

    Source(s): Standardised death rates for leading causes of death in females, 2015 (a)(b)(c)-Leading causes Top 10 SDRs Females




    The graph below depicts the causes with the largest sex ratios, within the Top 20 leading causes of death in Australia in 2015 (excluding sex-specific causes such as prostate and breast cancer). Intentional self-harm was the cause most likely to affect males, with 312 male deaths for every 100 female deaths. Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, was the cause which most predominantly affected females, with 53 male deaths for every 100 female deaths.

    Greatest sex ratios within the 20 leading causes of death, 2015(a)(b)

    (a) The top 20 leading causes of death for 2015 are based on the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Explanatory Notes 34-35 in this publication for further information. Groupings of deaths coded to Chapter XVIII: Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99) are not included in analysis, due to the unspecific nature of these causes. Furthermore, many deaths coded to this chapter are likely to be affected by revisions, and hence recoded to more specific causes of death as they progress through the revisions process.
    (b) See Explanatory Notes 68-95 for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2015 data.
    (c) Excludes Sequelae of suicide (Y87.0) as per the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See Explanatory Notes 85-93 in this publication.



    LEADING CAUSES OF ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER DEATH

    Measures of mortality relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are key inputs into the Closing the Gap strategy, led by the Council Of Australian Governments (COAG). This is a government partnership where work is undertaken with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. Mortality data enables measurement of progress towards key Closing the Gap targets.

    Analysis of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths included in this section refers only to those that occurred in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory are excluded in line with national reporting guidelines (for information on issues with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification, see Explanatory Notes 56-66).

    In 2015, the standardised death rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons was almost double that of non-Indigenous Australians (999.9 compared with 578.8 deaths per 100,000 people respectively). There were also significant differences in the leading causes of death. Causes including Intentional self-harm (X60-X84), Cirrhosis and other liver diseases (K70-K76) and Land transport accidents (V01-V89) feature prominently among leading causes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths. Diabetes is the second leading cause of death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but is ranked sixth for all Australians. In 2015 diabetes deaths occurred among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at a rate 4.7 times that of non-Indigenous Australians.

    2.2 TOP 10 LEADING CAUSES OF DEATH(a), NSW, Qld, SA, WA and NT(b) - by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status - 2015(c)

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    SDR(d)
    Non-Indigenous
    SDR(d)
    Rate ratio(e)
    Rate difference(f)
    Cause of Death and ICD-10 code
    no.
    rate
    no.
    rate

    All Causes

    Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)
    2 879

    394
    999.9

    143.1
    109 462

    13 717
    578.8

    71.9
    1.7

    2.0
    421.1

    71.1
    Diabetes (E10-E14)
    194
    76.9
    3 124
    16.3
    4.7
    60.6
    Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47)
    175
    72.1
    5 420
    28.2
    2.6
    43.8
    Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34)
    154
    56.0
    5 901
    30.5
    1.8
    25.5
    Intentional self-harm (X60-X84)(g)
    152
    25.5
    2 069
    12.5
    2.0
    13.0
    Cirrhosis and other diseases of liver (K70-K76)
    104
    25.4
    1 241
    6.6
    3.8
    18.8
    Symptoms, signs and ill-defined conditions (R00-R99)
    95
    21.1
    1 453
    8.0
    2.6
    13.1
    Cerebrovascular diseases (I60-I69)
    91
    45.1
    7 627
    40.0
    1.1
    5.1
    Land transport accidents (V01-V89)(h)
    84
    15.0
    876
    5.2
    2.9
    9.8
    Dementia, including Alzheimer disease (F01, F03, G30)
    71
    49.9
    8 811
    46.3
    1.1
    3.6

    (a) Causes listed are the leading causes of death for all deaths registered in 2015, based on WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Explanatory Notes 34-35 for further information.
    (b) Data are reported by jurisdiction of usual residence for NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT only. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been excluded in line with national reporting guidelines. For information on issues with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification, see Explanatory Notes 56-66.
    (c) Causes of death data for 2015 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See Explanatory Notes 52-55 and A More Timely Annual Collection: Changes to ABS Processes (Technical Note) in this publication.
    (d) Standardised Death Rate. Deaths per 100,000 of estimated mid-year population. See the Glossary and Explanatory Notes 40-42 for further information.
    (e) The rate ratio is the rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons divided by the non-Indigenous rate.
    (f) The rate difference is the rate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons less the non-Indigenous rate.
    (g) Excludes Sequelae of suicide (Y87.0) as per the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to suicide. See Explanatory Notes 85-93.
    (h) Excludes Sequelae of transport accidents (Y85) as per the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to transport accidents. For further information, see Explanatory Note 82.