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Provisional Mortality Statistics

Provisional deaths data for measuring changes in patterns of mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery period

Reference period
Jan 2020 - Jan 2021
Released
6/05/2021

Key statistics

  • 11,320 deaths occurred in January 2021 and were registered by 31 March 2021.
  • Numbers of deaths were above historical averages for January 2021. 
  • Numbers of deaths due to cancer and dementia were above historical averages in January.

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. 

Australian deaths by week, 30 December 2019 to 31 January 2021

Updates to this publication

  • This publication sees the introduction of the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) week system, where all weeks start on a Monday. Week 1 of any given year will always contain the 4th of January. The weekly dashboard including baseline years have been updated to reflect this change. 
  • A monthly mortality dashboard and baseline cube have been added to data downloads. 
  • Due to lower than expected mortality in some months during 2020, the baseline average for comparison for 2021 data remains 2015-2019. Additional registrations received for the 2015-2019 period have been added to the baseline. Updated figures are available in the data downloads.
  • See methodology for more information. 

All-cause deaths certified by a doctor

Tracking the number of doctor certified deaths against historical averages for similar time periods provides an indication of when excess deaths may occur. Throughout 2020, this was 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 to enable a comparison of the timelines for the pandemic with changes in numbers of deaths. In January 2021 numbers of new COVID-19 infections have been low. While there has been some locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in 2021, the majority of new infections have been acquired overseas. 

  • There were 11,320 deaths that occurred in January 2021 and were registered by 31 March.
  • There were 123 more deaths in January 2021 than in January 2020, and 409 deaths (3.7%) more than the average number of deaths for January 2015-19.
  • The average number of doctor certified deaths per week in January was 2,560. 

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.

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  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 19 April 2021.

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.

  • 1,017 deaths occurred from ischaemic heart disease during January 2021, the same number as in January 2020.
  • The average number of deaths recorded for the same period between 2015 and 2019 was 1,155.
  • Deaths due to ischaemic heart disease have been decreasing over time.
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  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 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.

  • 711 deaths from cerebrovascular diseases (including strokes) occurred during January 2021.
  • The average number of deaths recorded for the same period between 2015 and 2019 was 775.
  • Similar to ischaemic heart disease, deaths from cerebrovascular diseases have been declining over time. 
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  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 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.

  • There were 967 deaths from respiratory diseases during January 2021.
  • The average number of deaths for the same period between 2015 and 2019 was 971.
  • From mid April 2020 to the end of November, the number of deaths from respiratory diseases was below average. Between mid-June to the end of October, the number of deaths were below the lower range of historical averages. 
  • During December 2020 and January 2021, the number of deaths has been closer to average.
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  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 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 are a sub-group of respiratory diseases (J00-J99).

  • There were 552 deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases during January 2021.
  • The average of number of deaths for the same period from 2015 to 2019 was 549.
  • From mid April 2020 to the end of November, the number of deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases was below average.
  • During December 2020 and January 2021, the number of deaths has been closer to historical averages. 
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  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 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 are a subset of respiratory diseases (J00-J99).

  • There were 131 deaths due to influenza and pneumonia recorded during January 2021. All deaths in this category were assigned to pneumonia. 
  • The average number of deaths recorded over the same period from 2015 to 2019 was 189.

Influenza

  • There has not been a death recorded due to influenza since late July 2020. 

Pneumonia

  • The number of deaths due to pneumonia has been below average since late April 2020.
  • In January 2021, deaths due to pneumonia were 26.0% below the historical average of 177.
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  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 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.

  • 3,959 deaths from cancer occurred during January 2021.
  • The average number of deaths for the same time period from 2015-2019 was 3,830.
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  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 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.

  • 331 deaths from diabetes occurred during January 2021.
  • The average number of deaths over the same period from 2015 and 2019 was 340.
  • Deaths due to diabetes were above historical averages in December 2020.
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  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 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.

  • 1,215 deaths from dementia, including Alzheimer disease, occurred during January 2021.
  • The average number of deaths for the same period from 2015 to 2019 was 988.
  • The number of deaths due to dementia, including Alzheimer disease was 23% above historical averages in January.
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  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 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.

 

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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.

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Data downloads

Provisional mortality statistics, Jan 2020 - Jan 2021

Data files

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 3303.0.55.004