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Provisional Mortality Statistics

Provisional deaths data for measuring changes in patterns of mortality

Reference period
Jan 2020 - Dec 2021
Released
30/03/2022

Key statistics

  • 149,486 doctor certified deaths occurred in 2021 and were registered by 28 February 2022.
  • The age-standardised death rate for 2021 was 431.0, which was below the historical average (459.0) but above the rate for 2020 (424.5).
  • An article on modelled excess mortality to the end of December 2021 can be accessed via the articles link. 

Changes to this publication from next month

The next Provisional Mortality report, due for release in April, will report on data up until the end of January 2022. Some changes will occur to the publication structure at this time including:

  • Data for all-cause mortality will be published for all deaths registered and occurring in the time period, that is deaths certified by both a doctor and a coroner. This will be a change from the current publication where only deaths certified by a doctor are presented.
  • Because it takes longer for coroners to certify deaths (compared with doctor certified deaths), including coroner certified mortality may lower the completeness rate for more recently published weeks. 
  • Data for cause-specific mortality will include only doctor certified deaths (as with previous reports) due to the additional time taken to complete coronial investigations. 
  • There will be a change to baseline used for comparison of deaths occurring in 2022, with counts of deaths from 2017-2019 and 2021 to contribute to the baseline rather than those from 2015-2019. More information will be provided on the baseline update in the next publication. 

Measuring ‘excess’ deaths

Excess mortality is an epidemiological concept typically defined as the difference between the observed number of deaths in a specified time period and the expected numbers of deaths in that same time period. Estimates of excess deaths can provide information about the burden of mortality potentially related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including deaths that are directly or indirectly attributed to COVID-19.

Throughout this report, counts of deaths for 2020 and 2021 are compared to an average number of deaths recorded over the previous 5 years (2015-2019). These average or baseline counts serve as a proxy for the expected number of deaths, so comparisons against baseline counts can provide an indication of excess mortality. The minimum and maximum counts from 2015-19 are also included to provide an indication of the range of previous counts. Minimums and maximums for any given week can be from any of the five years from 2015-19. As mortality during 2020 had periods where deaths were significantly lower than expected, 2020 has not been included in the baseline average. 

While this publication can provide an indication of where higher than expected mortality may have occurred it is not an official estimate of excess mortality. Using the number of deaths from the previous five years as the predictor for the expected number of deaths does not take into account changes in population size and age-structures of that population. Age-standardised mortality rates can be accessed via the data downloads tab in this publication. Further an article on excess mortality applying a regression model to estimate the number of expected deaths until the end of December 2021 can be accessed via the articles link in this publication. 

COVID-19 Mortality

The ABS publishes two regular reports that provide preliminary information on mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic: the Provisional Mortality Statistics report and articles COVID-19 Deaths in Australia. These reports provide information on different time periods and serve different purposes.

Provisional Mortality Statistics reports focus on monitoring patterns of mortality (by all cause and specified leading causes of death) and highlight any changes potentially associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Data must be sufficiently complete to detect such changes, hence the need to delay reports until the majority of deaths that occurred in a particular period (>95%) have been registered and reported.   

COVID-19 Deaths in Australia articles focus on all COVID-19 deaths registered and reported up until a specified time. These reports include important information about COVID-19 deaths, including demographic details, comorbidities and consequences of the disease. While it is recognised data will be incomplete, it can still indicate emerging trends or changes among these deaths. The most recent article on COVID-19 mortality was released on 16 March and covers deaths that occurred and were registered up until 28 February, 2022. The next iteration of this article will be published on 20 April 2022 and will discuss deaths due to COVID-19 registered up until 31 March 2022. On that date it will be available by the articles link on this page. 

Australian deaths by week, 30 December 2019 to 2 January 2022

All-cause deaths certified by a doctor

Tracking the number of doctor certified deaths against historical averages for similar time periods provides an initial indication of when a change in the pattern of mortality may occur. This is of particular relevance because of the many potential public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of COVID-19 infections by week in Australia is highlighted alongside total deaths. This is to enable insights into patterns of mortality from all causes of death during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during peak infectious periods. 

For doctor certified deaths:

  • There were 149,486 deaths that occurred during 2021 and were registered by 28 February 2022. 
  • This is 8,517 deaths (5.7%) more than the 2015-19 average and 7,151 deaths (5.0%) more than in 2020.
  • The age-standardised death rate (SDR) for 2021 was 431.0 per 100,000 people. This was higher than in 2020 (424.5) but lower than the average for 2015-19 (459.0).
  • Deaths due to respiratory diseases, specifically chronic lower respiratory conditions had a higher SDR in 2021 than in 2020 but the rate remained below the 2015-19 average. 
  • Dementia had a higher SDR (41.7) in 2021 than both the rate in 2020 (40.7) and the rate of the 2015-19 average (41.2). 
  • Influenza and pneumonia (5.7), cancer (147.9), ischaemic heart diseases (38.7), cerebrovascular diseases (25.5) and diabetes (14.3) all recorded lower SDRs in 2021 than in either 2020 or the 2015-19 average. 
  • There were 12,179 deaths in December 2021, 3.6% more than in December 2020 and 9.5% more than the December average for 2015-19. The December SDR was 34.3 in 2021 and 2020, while the average for 2015-2019 was 35.7.
  • There were 192 doctor-certified deaths due to COVID-19 that occurred in December that were registered by 28 February.

Note: This analysis does not include coroner referred deaths. Any changes in patterns of coroner referral could affect counts of doctor certified deaths. Some conditions have higher coroner referral rates (ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular diseases and to a lesser extent, respiratory diseases and diabetes) so counts for those conditions would be more likely to be affected by such changes.

Deaths are presented by counts only. Counts of death do not account for changes in population. See data downloads for weekly and monthly age-standardised death rate calculations. 

  1. This graph is compiled by the date the death occurred.
  2. This data is considered to be provisional and subject to change as additional data is received.
  3. In line with the ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) week date system, weeks are defined as seven-day periods which start on a Monday. Week 1 of any given year is the week which starts on the Monday closest to 1 January, and for which the majority of its days fall in January (i.e. four days or more). Week 1 therefore always contains the 4th of January and always contains the first Thursday of the year. Using the ISO structure, some years (e.g. 2015 and 2020) contain 53 weeks.
  4. Refer to explanatory notes on the Methodology page of this publication for more information regarding the data in this graph.
  5. Data for the number of COVID-19 infections has been sourced from the COVID-19 daily infections graph published on the Australian Government Department of Health website. Data extracted 9 March 2022.

Ischaemic heart disease

Ischaemic heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia. The category includes acute conditions such as myocardial infarction and chronic conditions such as coronary atherosclerosis.

  • 13,878 deaths were certified by a doctor as being due to ischaemic heart disease (IHD) during 2021.
  • This is 1,220 deaths (8.8%) below the 2015-19 average, but is 2.0% higher than the 13,609 deaths certified as being due to IHD in 2020.

  • Deaths due to IHD have been decreasing over time.
  1. Ischaemic heart disease includes all deaths where the underlying cause of death is assigned an ICD-10 code between I20-I25.
  2. This graph only includes doctor certified deaths.
  3. This graph is compiled by the date the death occurred.
  4. This data is considered to be provisional and subject to change as additional data is received.
  5. In line with the ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) week date system, weeks are defined as seven-day periods which start on a Monday. Week 1 of any given year is the week which starts on the Monday closest to 1 January, and for which the majority of its days fall in January (i.e. four days or more). Week 1 therefore always contains the 4th of January and always contains the first Thursday of the year. Using the ISO structure, some years (e.g. 2015 and 2020) contain 53 weeks.
  6. Refer to the weekly data cube to find the dates corresponding to each week. For example, week 1 in 2020 was 29 December 2019 to 5 January 2020, while week 1 in 2021 was 4 January to 10 January 2021. 
  7. Refer to the explanatory notes on the Methodology page of this publication for more information regarding the data in this graph.

Cerebrovascular diseases

Cerebrovascular diseases refer to a number of conditions such as stroke, cerebral aneurysms and stenosis that affect blood flow and circulation to the brain.

  • 9,116 deaths were certified by a doctor as being from cerebrovascular diseases (including strokes) during 2021.
  • This is 632 deaths (6.9%) below the 2015-19 average, and comparable to the 9,046 deaths in 2020.
  • Similar to ischaemic heart diseases, deaths from cerebrovascular diseases have been declining over time. 
  1. Cerebrovascular diseases include all deaths where the underlying cause of death is assigned an ICD-10 code between I60-I69.
  2. This graph only includes doctor certified deaths.
  3. This graph is compiled by the date the death occurred.
  4. This data is considered to be provisional and subject to change as additional data is received.
  5. In line with the ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) week date system, weeks are defined as seven-day periods which start on a Monday. Week 1 of any given year is the week which starts on the Monday closest to 1 January, and for which the majority of its days fall in January (i.e. four days or more). Week 1 therefore always contains the 4th of January and always contains the first Thursday of the year. Using the ISO structure, some years (e.g. 2015 and 2020) contain 53 weeks.
  6. Refer to the weekly data cube to find the dates corresponding to each week. For example, week 1 in 2020 was 29 December 2019 to 5 January 2020, while week 1 in 2021 was 4 January to 10 January 2021. 
  7. Refer to explanatory notes on the Methodology page of this publication for more information regarding the data in this graph.

Respiratory diseases

Respiratory diseases include causes of death such as pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lower respiratory diseases (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis). Deaths due to COVID-19 are not included in this category. COVID-19 deaths are captured using WHO issued emergency codes U07.1 and U07.2 and are not currently grouped with any other diseases, though they are included in the total number of deaths and are presented in the data downloads.

  • There were 13,121 deaths from respiratory diseases in 2021.
  • This is 1,234 deaths (9.4%) below the 2015-19 average, but 8.2% higher than 2020 (12,123). Deaths from respiratory diseases were particularly low in 2020, likely because of measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • In December 2021 there were 1,018 deaths due to respiratory diseases, comparable to both December 2020 (1,006) and the 2015-19 average (1,005).
  1. Respiratory diseases include all deaths where the underlying cause of death is assigned an ICD-10 code between J00-J99.
  2. This graph only includes doctor certified deaths.
  3. This graph is compiled by the date the death occurred.
  4. This data is considered to be provisional and subject to change as additional data is received.
  5. In line with the ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) week date system, weeks are defined as seven-day periods which start on a Monday. Week 1 of any given year is the week which starts on the Monday closest to 1 January, and for which the majority of its days fall in January (i.e. four days or more). Week 1 therefore always contains the 4th of January and always contains the first Thursday of the year. Using the ISO structure, some years (e.g. 2015 and 2020) contain 53 weeks.
  6. Refer to the weekly data cube to find the dates corresponding to each week. For example, week 1 in 2020 was 29 December 2019 to 5 January 2020, while week 1 in 2021 was 4 January to 10 January 2021. 
  7. Refer to the explanatory notes on the Methodology page of this publication for more information regarding the data in this graph.

Chronic lower respiratory diseases

Chronic lower respiratory diseases include chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD). Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47) are a sub-group of respiratory diseases (J00-J99).

  • There were 7,241 deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases in 2021.
  • This is 416 deaths (5.7%) below the 2015-19 average, but 7.3% higher than 2020 (6,746).
  • In December 2021 there were 566 deaths from chronic lower respiratory conditions, comparable to both December 2020 (583) and the 2015-19 average of 556. 
  1. Chronic lower respiratory diseases include all deaths where the underlying cause of death is assigned an ICD-10 code between J40-J47.
  2. This graph only includes doctor certified deaths.
  3. This graph is compiled by the date the death occurred.
  4. This data is considered to be provisional and subject to change as additional data is received.
  5. In line with the ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) week date system, weeks are defined as seven-day periods which start on a Monday. Week 1 of any given year is the week which starts on the Monday closest to 1 January, and for which the majority of its days fall in January (i.e. four days or more). Week 1 therefore always contains the 4th of January and always contains the first Thursday of the year. Using the ISO structure, some years (e.g. 2015 and 2020) contain 53 weeks.
  6. Refer to the weekly data cube to find the dates corresponding to each week. For example, week 1 in 2020 was 29 December 2019 to 5 January 2020, while week 1 in 2021 was 4 January to 10 January 2021. 

  7. Refer to explanatory notes on the Methodology page of this publication for more information regarding the data in this graph.

Influenza and pneumonia

Influenza and pneumonia are acute respiratory diseases often grouped together when compiling leading causes of death. They are two distinct diseases: influenza is a viral infection, while pneumonia can be caused by a virus, bacteria or fungi. Influenza is a common cause of pneumonia.

Influenza deaths are highly seasonal and most commonly occur in Australia between the months of May and September. The timing, length and severity of the influenza season varies considerably from year to year. For this reason, influenza deaths have been excluded from the graph below so pneumonia deaths can be tracked separately.

Influenza and pneumonia (J09-J18) are a subset of respiratory diseases (J00-J99).

  • There were 2,130 deaths due to influenza and pneumonia recorded in 2021. All but two deaths in this category were due to pneumonia. 
  • This is 1,204 deaths (56.5%) lower than the 2015-19 average, but comparable to the 2,148 deaths recorded in 2020.

Influenza

  • There were no deaths due to influenza in December 2021.  

Pneumonia

  • The number of deaths due to pneumonia has generally been below average since late April 2020.
  • In 2021, the 2,128 deaths due to pneumonia were 28.0% below the 2015-19 average but comparable to the 2,105 deaths in 2020.
  • During December 2021 there were 157 deaths due to pneumonia, 10 deaths (6.8%) more than in December 2020 but 16.5% below the 2015-19 average.
  1. Pneumonia includes all deaths where the underlying cause of death is assigned an ICD-10 code between J12-J18.
  2. This graph only includes doctor certified deaths.
  3. This graph is compiled by the date the death occurred.
  4. This data is considered to be provisional and subject to change as additional data is received.
  5. In line with the ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) week date system, weeks are defined as seven-day periods which start on a Monday. Week 1 of any given year is the week which starts on the Monday closest to 1 January, and for which the majority of its days fall in January (i.e. four days or more). Week 1 therefore always contains the 4th of January and always contains the first Thursday of the year. Using the ISO structure, some years (e.g. 2015 and 2020) contain 53 weeks.
  6. Refer to the weekly data cube to find the dates corresponding to each week. For example, week 1 in 2020 was 29 December 2019 to 5 January 2020, while week 1 in 2021 was 4 January to 10 January 2021. 
  7. Refer to the explanatory notes on the Methodology page of this publication for more information regarding the data in this graph.

Cancer

Cancer includes malignant neoplasms encompassing carcinomas, sarcomas and lymph and blood cancers.

  • 49,199 deaths from cancer occurred in 2021.
  • This is 6.3% higher than the 2015-19 average, and 2.3% higher than at the same point in 2020.
  • The SDR for cancer in 2021 was 147.9 deaths per 100,000 people. This is slightly below the SDR of 149.4 in 2020 and below the average SDR for 2015-2019 (157.1).
  • During December 2021 there were 4,142 deaths due to cancer, comparable to the 4,150 deaths in December 2020, and 6.9% higher than the 2015-19 average.
  1. Cancer includes all deaths where the underlying cause of death is assigned an ICD-10 code between C00-C97, D45, D46, D47.1 or D47.3-D47.5.
  2. This graph only includes doctor certified deaths.
  3. This graph is compiled by the date the death occurred.
  4. This data is considered to be provisional and subject to change as additional data is received.
  5. In line with the ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) week date system, weeks are defined as seven-day periods which start on a Monday. Week 1 of any given year is the week which starts on the Monday closest to 1 January, and for which the majority of its days fall in January (i.e. four days or more). Week 1 therefore always contains the 4th of January and always contains the first Thursday of the year. Using the ISO structure, some years (e.g. 2015 and 2020) contain 53 weeks.
  6. Refer to the weekly data cube to find the dates corresponding to each week. For example, week 1 in 2020 was 29 December 2019 to 5 January 2020, while week 1 in 2021 was 4 January to 10 January 2021.
  7. Refer to the explanatory notes on the Methodology page in this publication for more information regarding the data in this graph.

Diabetes

Diabetes includes both Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. The majority of diabetes deaths are from Type 2 diabetes.

  • 4,954 deaths from diabetes occurred in 2021.
  • This is 10.1% higher than the 2015-19 average, but comparable to the 4,934 deaths in 2020.
  • The SDR for diabetes in 2021 was 14.3 deaths per 100,000 people. This is slightly lower than the SDR in 2020 (14.8) and lower than the 2015-2019 average (14.6).
  • During December 2021 there were 395 deaths due to diabetes, which is 13.5% higher than the 2015-19 average, but 5.5% lower than in December 2020.
  1. Diabetes includes all deaths where the underlying cause of death is assigned an ICD-10 code between E10-E14.
  2. This graph only includes doctor certified deaths.
  3. This graph is compiled by the date the death occurred.
  4. This data is considered to be provisional and subject to change as additional data is received.
  5. In line with the ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) week date system, weeks are defined as seven-day periods which start on a Monday. Week 1 of any given year is the week which starts on the Monday closest to 1 January, and for which the majority of its days fall in January (i.e. four days or more). Week 1 therefore always contains the 4th of January and always contains the first Thursday of the year. Using the ISO structure, some years (e.g. 2015 and 2020) contain 53 weeks.
  6. Refer to the weekly data cube to find the dates corresponding to each week. For example, week 1 in 2020 was 29 December 2019 to 5 January 2020, while week 1 in 2021 was 4 January to 10 January 2021.
  7. Refer to the explanatory notes on the Methodology page of this publication for more information regarding the data in this graph.

Dementia, including Alzheimer disease

Dementia, including Alzheimer disease, is the second leading cause of death in Australia and counts of deaths from dementia have increased steadily over the past 20 years. This increase should be taken into consideration when comparing 2020 and 2021 counts against baseline averages.

  • 15,450 deaths from dementia, including Alzheimer disease, occurred in 2021.
  • This is 12.6% higher than the 2015-19 average, and 6.1% higher than in 2020.
  • The SDR for dementia in 2021 was 41.7 per 100,000 people. This is slightly above the historical average SDR of 41.2 and above the SDR for 2020 of 40.7. 
  •  In December 2021 there were 1,236 deaths due to dementia, including Alzheimer disease, 4.5% higher than in December 2020, and 17.7% higher than the baseline average.

  1. Dementia, including Alzheimer Disease includes all deaths where the underlying cause of death is assigned an ICD-10 code of F01, F03 or G30.
  2. This graph only includes doctor certified deaths.
  3. This graph is compiled by the date the death occurred.
  4. This data is considered to be provisional and subject to change as additional data is received.
  5. In line with the ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) week date system, weeks are defined as seven-day periods which start on a Monday. Week 1 of any given year is the week which starts on the Monday closest to 1 January, and for which the majority of its days fall in January (i.e. four days or more). Week 1 therefore always contains the 4th of January and always contains the first Thursday of the year. Using the ISO structure, some years (e.g. 2015 and 2020) contain 53 weeks.
  6. Refer to the weekly data cube to find the dates corresponding to each week. For example, week 1 in 2020 was 29 December 2019 to 5 January 2020, while week 1 in 2021 was 4 January to 10 January 2021.
  7. Refer to the explanatory notes on the Methodology page of this publication for more information regarding the data in this graph.

Timeliness and completeness of data

Each death registration in the national mortality dataset has 3 dates:

  • The date on which the death occurred.
  • The date on which the death was registered with the jurisdictional Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages (RBDM).
  • The date on which the death was lodged with the ABS.
     

The time between the occurrence of a 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, and for this reason they are excluded from the provisional mortality reports.

When looking to measure change over time, the completeness of data for the most recent period is important. When data are received each month by the ABS, the lag between the date of death and date of registration means that only 40-50% of reported registrations are of deaths that occurred in the month being reported. The remainder are deaths that occurred in earlier months. After a second month of reporting, approximately 95% of doctor certified registrations have been received. This is considered sufficiently complete to enable meaningful comparison with historical counts, noting that the level of completeness will be higher for the start of any given month than the end of that month.

This pattern of registration and reporting is highlighted in the table below, which also shows the slight variation in reporting timelines by cause of death. This should be considered when comparing 2021 data to the 2015-2019 baseline data.

 

Cause of deathReported at the end of the month the death occurredReported at the end of the month after the death occurredTotal portion reported at the end of the month after the death occurred
All cause

45.8%

48.6%

94.4%

Ischaemic heart disease (I20 – I25)

45.2%

49.2%

94.4%

Cerebrovascular diseases (I60 – I69)

45.4%

49.3%

94.7%

Respiratory diseases (J00 – J99)

45.5%

48.7%

94.2%

Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40 – J47)

45.4%

48.3%

93.7%

Influenza and pneumonia (J09 – J18)

45.7%

49.2%

94.9%

Cancer (C00 – C97, D45, D56, D47.1, D47.3 – D47.5)

46.9%

48.0%

94.9%

Diabetes (E10 – E14)

43.6%

49.0%

92.7%

Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease (F01, F03, G30)

46.0%

48.6%

94.6%

a. Percentages are based on the average of 5 years (2015-2019) of receipt of death registrations.
b. This table only includes doctor certified deaths.
c. Data is subject to change.
 

The graph below shows how numbers of deaths for each period have increased over time as additional registrations that occurred in previous months are reported to the ABS. Due to these increases, data for the most recently reported periods should be treated with caution.

Data downloads

Provisional mortality statistics, Jan 2020 - Dec 2021

Data files

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 3303.0.55.004