Scope and coverage
Scope for all ABS mortality statistics
The scope of the statistics includes:
- Deaths that occurred and were registered in Australia, including deaths of persons whose usual residence is overseas;
- Deaths occurring within Australian Territorial waters;
- Deaths occurring in Australian Antarctic Territories or other external territories (including Norfolk Island);
- Deaths occurring in transit (i.e. on ships or planes) if registered in the State of 'next port of call'; and
- Deaths of Australian Nationals overseas who were employed at Australian legations and consular offices (i.e. deaths of Australian diplomats while overseas) where able to be identified.
The scope of the statistics excludes:
- Deaths of Australian residents that occurred outside Australia but have been registered by individual Registrars;
- Repatriation of human remains where the death occurred overseas;
- Deaths of foreign diplomatic staff in Australia (where these are able to be identified); and
- Stillbirths (fetal deaths).
Differences in scope for this report compared with Deaths, Australia (cat. no. 3302.0) and Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0)
This report contains statistics compiled using different methods to those used when compiling annual data on deaths and causes of death. Key differences include:
- This report focusses only on doctor certified deaths. Annual reports cover all deaths including those that are doctor certified and those that were referred to a coroner.
- Data in this report are based on the date of occurrence of the death. Annual reports generally present data based on date of registration.
- Data in this report are based on the state or territory of registration. Data in annual reports are based on the state or territory of usual residence of the deceased.
- Data in this report are considered to be provisional. Data released in annual reports are considered to be final (with the exception of revisions for coroner referred deaths).
Data for the current reference period and data used to derive baseline counts (maximum, minimum and average) are based on these methods enabling strong comparison over time.
For more information regarding the scope of the annual Deaths, Australia and Causes of Death, Australia publications see Explanatory notes on the Methodology page in catalogue numbers 3302.0 and 3303.0 on the ABS website.
Doctor certified deaths and coroner certified deaths
When a death occurs, the cause of that death is either certified by a doctor using a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD), or the death is referred to a coroner for further investigation. Data in this report cover only those deaths that are certified by a doctor. In Australia approximately 86-89% of deaths are certified by a doctor.
Almost all external causes of death (e,g. suicides, accidents and assaults) are referred to a coroner and are therefore not covered in this report.
Although there is variation across jurisdictions in what constitutes a death that is reportable to a coroner, they are generally reported in circumstances such as:
- where the person died unexpectedly and the cause of death is unknown
- where the person died in a violent or unnatural manner
- where the person died during, or as a result of an anaesthetic
- where the person was 'held in care' or in custody immediately before they died
- where the identity of the person who has died is unknown.
Counts of deaths in this report will not be comparable with those reported in the annual Deaths, Australia or Causes of Death, Australia publications which include both doctor and coroner certified deaths.
Date of death versus date of registration
There are two dates that are recorded on a death registration for all deaths that occur in Australia - the date on which the death occurred and the date on which the death was registered. Data in this report are compiled on date of occurrence.
Date of occurrence and date of registration will differ for all deaths, and the length of time by which they differ can vary considerably. Deaths are not reported to the ABS until they are registered, so the length of time between death and registration affects:
- The timeliness of information reported; and
- The ability to measure true change in mortality over time.
The average time lag between death and registration can vary, although in general deaths certified by a doctor are registered sooner. Coroner certified deaths undergo extensive investigative processes which can delay registration times.
As lag times between death and registration are longer for coroner referred deaths, these are excluded from these reports.
State or territory of registration versus usual residence
Data in this release are compiled by state or territory in which the death was registered. In the majority of cases, the death is registered in the state in which it occurred. Data in the annual Deaths, Australia and Causes of Death, Australia reports are compiled by the state or territory of usual residence of the deceased, regardless of where in Australia the death occurred and was registered.
Deaths of persons usually resident overseas which occur in Australia are included in the state/territory in which their death was registered. They are also included in counts of deaths based on usual residence of the deceased.
Provisional data versus final data
Statistics in this release are provisional and will be subject to additional processes prior to being released as part of the annual Deaths and Causes of Death datasets. Changes that may occur are:
- The number of deaths may change.
- Demographic variables may change.
- The causes of death may change.
Counts of deaths in the annual Deaths, Australia (cat. no. 3302.0) and Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0) are considered final. Causes of death for coroner referred deaths are subject to a revisions process. Further information on this revisions process can be found in the Explanatory notes in the Methodology for Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0).
As registrations for deaths that occurred in previous reference periods are sent to the ABS, these will be counted in their date of occurrence and therefore each release will represent a more complete count of the number of deaths that occurred in that reference period.
Data can be impacted by changes in practices within one or more of the Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages and therefore caution should be exercised when assessing week to week movements.