3303.0 - Causes of Death, Australia, 2016  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/09/2017   
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27 September 2017
Embargo: 11.30 am (Canberra time)

Drug induced deaths at highest rate since late 90s

Australia recorded the highest number of drug-induced deaths since the late 1990s, with the death rate steadily increasing over a decade and now at 7.5 deaths per 100,000 Australians - data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows.

"There were 1,808 drug induced deaths in 2016, with those deaths most commonly associated with Benzodiazepines and Oxycodone," James Eynstone-Hinkins, Director of Health and Vital Statistics at the ABS said. "These are both prescription drugs which are used to manage anxiety and pain respectively."

Death rates from illicit drugs have also increased. The death rate from Psychostimulants, which include methamphetamines and the drug 'ice', have quadrupled since 1999. They are now the third most common substances associated with drug deaths, with heroin being the fourth most common.

Australia's leading cause of death continues to be heart disease, although the number and rate of death from heart disease continues to decline. As death rates from heart disease and stroke decrease, other diseases such as dementia, which includes Alzheimer's disease, continue to increase.

"In 2016, dementia became the leading cause of death among Australian women," Mr Eynstone-Hinkins said. "Improvements in treatments and prevention of heart disease have contributed to increased life expectancy, but this has also led to increased deaths from conditions such as dementia which affect predominantly very elderly Australians."

There were 158,504 deaths in Australia in 2016, with a corresponding standardised death rate of 5.4 per 1,000 people. The infant mortality rate is at a record low of 3.1 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Cancers accounted for almost 30 per cent of Australian deaths in 2016. Lung cancer accounted for the most cancer deaths, making it the second leading cause of death for males and fourth leading cause overall. Colorectal cancer was the sixth leading cause of death, accounting for 5,462 deaths in 2016. Breast cancer was the sixth ranked cause for women, while prostate cancer was the sixth ranked for men.
Diabetes is Australia's seventh leading cause of death overall, accounting for 3.0 per cent of all deaths in 2016. There are more than a million Australians living with diabetes and it was considered to be a contributory factor in 10.4 per cent of all deaths in 2016.

Suicide is the leading cause of death among people 15-44 years of age and remains the leading cause of premature mortality in Australia. In 2016, suicide deaths occurred at a rate of 11.7 deaths per 100,000 people.

Comprehensive data and analysis can be found in Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0) and Deaths, Australia (cat. no. 3302.0), available for free download from the ABS website - https://www.abs.gov.au.

Media Note:
  • Care should be taken when reporting suicide deaths. Please refer to the Mindframe website for further guidance.
  • Care should be taken when interpreting figures relating to suicide and when comparing suicide data with previous years. See Explanatory notes 46-56 and 85-93 for further information.
  • When reporting ABS data, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or ABS) must be attributed as the source.
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