Fifty years of reductions in cardiovascular deaths


Australia has recently marked an important health milestone, with 50 years passing since the 1968 peak in cardiovascular disease mortality, according to a report released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

In 1968, ischaemic heart disease and stroke caused almost 45 per cent of Australian deaths, at a rate of 646.9 deaths per 100,000 people. This included 26,456 deaths of people under the age of 75. By 2017, these conditions accounted for 17.9 per cent of all deaths at a rate of 91.4 deaths per 100,000 people, and only 6,604 deaths were of people aged under 75.

James Eynstone-Hinkins, Director of Health and Vital Statistics at the ABS, said if mortality rates had remained the same as in 1968, there would have been an additional 207,200 deaths from cardiovascular diseases in 2017.

"The mortality rate for acute heart diseases, mostly heart attacks, has decreased by 91.5 per cent over the last 50 years. Reductions in rates are evident across all demographics, but greatest among people aged 45-74," said Mr Eynstone-Hinkins.

"Deaths from chronic ischaemic heart diseases are now more common than those from heart attacks, accounting for 55.8 per cent of all heart disease deaths in 2017."

The decrease in cardiovascular deaths, especially among middle-aged Australians, has contributed significantly to increased life expectancy and has changed the pattern of mortality in Australia.

"Medical interventions such as coronary bypass grafts, treatment of risk factors such as high cholesterol and hypertension and public health campaigns have all played a part in reducing cardiovascular mortality in Australia," said Mr Eynstone-Hinkins.

Despite the large decreases, heart disease continues to be Australia’s leading cause of death in 2017 and the second leading cause of premature death. As people live longer, heart health is also important for maintaining quality of life in those later years.

Comprehensive data and analysis can be found in Changing Patterns of Mortality in Australia (cat. no. 3303.0.55.003) and Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0), available for free download from the ABS website -

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