Provisional Mortality Statistics

Latest release

Provisional deaths data for measuring changes in patterns of mortality

Reference period
Jan - May 2022
Released
26/08/2022
  • Next Release 30/09/2022
    Provisional Mortality Statistics, Jan - Jun 2022
  • Next Release 27/10/2022
    Provisional Mortality Statistics, Jan - Jul 2022
  • View all releases

Key statistics

  • In 2022, there were 75,593 deaths that occurred by 31 May and were registered by 31 July, which is 10,757 (16.6%) more than the historical average.
  • In May there were 16,124 deaths, 1,922 (13.5%) above the historical average.
  • Deaths due to COVID-19 increased in May when compared with March and April (see article).

Baseline comparisons

Throughout this report, counts of deaths are compared to an average number of deaths for previous years. In this report, data for 2021 is compared to an average number of deaths recorded over the 5 years from 2015-2019 as was the case in previous publications. Data for 2022 is compared to a baseline comprising the years 2017-2019 and 2021. 2020 is not included in the baseline for 2022 data because it included periods where numbers of deaths were significantly lower than expected.  Counts of deaths for 2015-2021 are included in the baseline datacubes of the data downloads section of this report. 

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 whether mortality is higher or lower than expected in a given year. The minimum and maximum counts 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 years included in the baseline.

While this publication can provide an indication of where counts of deaths are above or below expectations, it does not provide official estimates of excess mortality. Using the number of deaths from the previous 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, as well as expected improvements in mortality rates over time. Age-standardised death rates can be accessed via the data downloads tab in this publication. 

COVID-19 mortality

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

Provisional Mortality Statistics focus on monitoring patterns of mortality (by all-causes 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, and as such these reports are only released once the majority of deaths that occurred in a particular period have been registered and reported.   

COVID-19 Mortality in Australia articles focus on all COVID-19 deaths registered and reported up until a specified time. These articles 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 covering deaths that occurred and were registered up until 31 July 2022 can be accessed through the articles link on this page. 

Australian deaths by week

All-cause deaths

Tracking the number of 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 all deaths:

  • In 2022, there were 75,593 deaths that occurred by 31 May and were registered by 31 July. This is 10,757 deaths (16.6%) more than the baseline average.
  • In May there were 16,124 deaths, 1,922 (13.5%) above the historical average. 
  • 14,346 of the deaths occurring in May 2022 were doctor certified and 1,778 were coroner referred.
  • The age-standardised death rate (SDR) for May 2022 was 45.9 deaths per 100,000 people. This was higher than the baseline average (44.2). 

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. Data is by occurrence.
  2. Data is provisional and subject to change.
  3. Weeks are defined as seven-day periods which start on a Monday as per the ISO week date system. Refer to 'Weekly comparisons' on the methodology page of this publication for more information regarding the data in this graph.
  4. Data for the number of COVID-19 infections has been sourced on 3 August 2022 from the COVID-19 daily infections graph published on the Australian Department of Health website.
  5. The baseline includes deaths from 2015-19 (for 2021) and from 2017-19 and 2021 (for 2022).

Mortality by selected causes of death

Cause-specific mortality

The following analysis is based only on doctor certified deaths (i.e. coroner referred deaths are not included). 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.

COVID-19

The graph below shows COVID-19 doctor certified deaths alongside COVID-19 infections. Similar to the all-cause mortality graph, this graph is designed to show the pattern of COVID-19 mortality during the pandemic. COVID-19 mortality and infections are presented on two separate axes with different scales. The mortality axis is on the left side and the infections axis is on the right side. This should be considered when looking at the magnitude of mortality during this time period. For example, during the Delta wave the doctor-certified COVID-19 deaths range from 5 - 98 per week. To reference the infections during this period, the right axis should be referred to which shows that infections were in the 1000's to 10000's each week. The graph also demonstrates how deaths due to COVID-19 peak slightly after peaks in infections. 

  • Between January and May 2022 there have been 4,465 deaths due to COVID-19 that were certified by a doctor. 858 of these deaths occurred in April.

a. COVID-19 includes all deaths where the underlying cause of death is assigned an ICD-10 code of U07.1 or U07.2.
b. Only doctor certified deaths are included.
c. Data is by date of occurrence.
d. Data is provisional and subject to change.
e. Weeks are defined as seven-day periods which start on a Monday as per the ISO week date system. Refer to 'Weekly comparisons' on the methodology page of this publication for more information regarding the data in this graph.
f. Data for the number of COVID-19 infections has been sourced on 3 August 2022 from the COVID-19 daily infections graph published on the Australian Department of Health website.

Other causes of death

  • Deaths due to dementia including Alzheimer's disease were 16.4% above the baseline average in May, and 20.5% above the baseline average for the year to May. The age standardised death rate for May was 3.9 per 100,000 people, compared to a baseline average rate of 3.6.
  • Deaths due to cancer were 5.5% above the baseline average in May, to be 6.0% above the baseline average for the year to May. The age standardised rate for May (12.6 per 100,000 people) was below the baseline average rate of 13.0.
  • Deaths due to diabetes were 18.7% above average in May, and were 20.0% higher than the baseline average for the year to May.
  • There have been 44 registered deaths due to influenza that occurred during May. The historical average number of deaths occurring due to influenza in May is 29. 
  • Deaths due to pneumonia were 20.1% below the baseline average in May 2022, and are 12.0% lower than the baseline average for the year to May.
Doctor certified deaths by cause, May 2022
 May 2022May baseline averageJan - May 2022Jan - May baseline average
Cancer4,3024,07720,68619,514
Dementia1,4761,2686,7635,611
Ischaemic heart disease1,3131,2825,8545,656
Respiratory diseases1,1591,2355,0515,125
     Chronic lower respiratory diseases6336632,8452,806
     Influenza and pneumonia227258839985
          Pneumonia183229794902
COVID-19858n/a4,465n/a
Cerebrovascular diseases8388273,7133,755
Diabetes4774022,1681,806

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.
     

When looking to measure change over time, the completeness of data for the most recent period is important. When data is received each month by the ABS, the lag between the date of death and the date of registration means that approximately 40-50% of reported registrations are of deaths that occurred in the month being reported. The remainder are deaths that occurred in earlier months.

For deaths which are doctor certified, approximately 95% of registrations are received after a second month of reporting, while for coroner certified deaths, the proportion of registrations reported after a second month is lower (approximately 78%). This is because it takes longer for coroners to certify deaths due to the complexity of investigations.

As coroner referred deaths make up a smaller proportion of all deaths (approximately 11-14%) their inclusion in all-cause data only reduces the overall completeness by around 2%. This should be considered when making comparisons with historical counts, noting also 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. 

Estimated completeness of death registrations received by the ABS (a)(b)(c)
Cause of death

Total proportion reported at the end of the month the death occurred (%)

Total proportion reported at the end of the month after the death occurred (%)

Total proportion reported at the end of two months after the death occurred (%)

All cause - doctor and coroner certified43.192.897.2
All cause - doctor certified only45.794.998.4
All cause - coroner certified only24.777.888.4
Ischaemic heart disease (I20 – I25)45.294.998.4
Cerebrovascular diseases (I60 – I69)45.195.298.6
Respiratory diseases (J00 – J99)45.895.598.7
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40 – J47)45.494.398.2
Influenza and pneumonia (J09 – J18)45.795.598.9
Cancer (C00 – C97, D45, D46, D47.1, D47.3 – D47.5)46.995.498.6
Diabetes (E10 – E14)43.993.097.3
Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease (F01, F03, G30)46.295.498.8

a. Percentages are based on the date registrations were received by the ABS for deaths that occurred in 2017-2019 and 2021.
b. Only doctor certified deaths are included for cause-specific data.
c. Data is provisional and subject to change.
 

The graphs below show 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 - May 2022

Data files

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 3303.0.55.004

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