Provisional Mortality Statistics

Latest release

Provisional deaths data for measuring changes in patterns of mortality

Reference period
Jan - Sep 2023

Key statistics

  • There were 14,654 deaths which occurred in September 2023. This is 6.8% less than in September 2022.
  • The death rate for September 2023 was 40.6 per 100,000 people, well below the baseline average of 45.1.
  • COVID-19 caused 191 deaths in October, up from 148 in September (see article).

From April 2024 there will be a change to how deaths data in the Provisional Mortality Statistics report will be presented. The time frame coincides with the beginning of the reporting period for deaths occurring in 2024. The format of these reports will be confirmed in upcoming publications and will take account of the following factors.  

  • The ABS now releases official Excess mortality estimates every six months. These estimates are modelled from a historical baseline accounting for age structure and population. With this report available, the baseline constructed from an average count of deaths which is currently included in the Provisional Mortality Report is no longer necessary. The latest excess mortality estimates are available in the article ‘Measuring Australia’s excess mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic until August 2023’, published on 18 December. 
  • The Director-General of the World Health Organization called an end to the emergency phase of the pandemic in May 2023. In line with this, the information presented can be changed to reflect changing data needs. As the pandemic has progressed it is important to consider not only the impact of COVID-19 alone, but also that of other active acute respiratory infections.

Baseline comparisons

The purpose of a baseline is to provide a typical year (or combination of years) to compare the current year to. Deaths for 2023 will have two comparisons points - they will be compared to both deaths occurring in 2022 and a baseline period consisting of the average number of deaths occurring in the years of 2017-2019, 2021.

There were 190,775 deaths which occurred in 2022. This is significantly higher than usual and is not considered to be a typical year for mortality in Australia. Therefore 2022 has not been included in the baseline average and is instead presented separately in graphs and tables. The baseline average presented in this report remains as the average of the years 2017-19 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 and is similarly not considered to be a typical year for mortality in Australia.  

These counts serve as a proxy for the expected number of deaths, so comparisons against baseline or the previous year can provide an indication of whether mortality is higher or lower than expected in a given year. The minimum and maximum baseline counts are also included to provide an indication of the range of previous years. 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. 

Counts of deaths for 2015-2022 are included in the baseline data cubes of the data downloads section of this report. Customised baselines are able to be created from these data cubes. 

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 deaths registered and reported with COVID-19 written on the death certificate up until a specified time. These articles include important information about COVID-19 certified 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 certified as COVID-19 associated, that occurred and were registered up until 30 November 2023 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.

For all deaths:

  • In 2023, there were 137,048 deaths that occurred by 30 September and were registered by 30 November. This is 12,377 deaths (9.9%) more than the baseline average, but 8,225 (5.7%) less than in 2022.
  • Between March and May there were a similar number of deaths in 2023 as there were in 2022. 
  • Since June there has been a considerably lower number of deaths in 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.
  • In September 2023 there were 14,654 deaths, 0.8% more than the baseline average but 6.8% less than in 2022.
  • 12,884 of the deaths occurring in September 2023 were doctor certified and 1,770 were coroner referred.
  • The age-standardised death rate (SDR) for September was 40.6 deaths per 100,000 people, below both the baseline average for this period (45.1) and the rate for 2022 (44.8). This is the lowest SDR for September since at least 2015. The second lowest September SDR in this period was in September 2020, when the SDR was 41.4.

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. Week 1 ended 9 Jan 2022 and 8 Jan 2023.
  4. The baseline includes deaths from 2017-19 and 2021.

Age-specific death rates

The following table shows age-specific death rates (deaths per 100,000 population) for different age groups by sex in September and for January to September 2023, presented with both those from 2022 and the baseline average.

September 2023

  • Across all age groups for both males and females, death rates were lower in September 2023 than the baseline average.
  • The age specific rates for males aged 65-74 years and females aged 45-64 were slightly higher in September 2023 than in September 2022, but all other age groups recorded lower rates in 2023. 
  • Persons aged 0-44 years recorded an age specific death rate in September 2023 that was 14.7% below average and 16.3% lower than the rate recorded in September 2022. 
  • For all age groups, the male death rate is higher than the female death rate, with the rate ratio being larger in the 65-74 years age group.

Year to date, January to September 2023

  • For males and females in January to September 2023, the overall crude death rate was higher than the baseline average but lower than the rate for the same period in 2022. All age specific death rates were lower in 2023 than the baseline average or in 2022.
  • Males aged 0-44 years recorded an age specific death rate that was 8.0% lower in January to September 2023 than both the baseline average and the rate in 2022. 
Age specific rates, 2023, 2022, Baseline
 SeptemberJanuary - September
 20232022baseline average20232022baseline average
Persons      
0-443.6074.3094.22836.56639.37838.891
45-6427.90029.61929.185255.494274.862258.881
65-7491.45196.014100.229854.340912.718869.652
75-84262.348289.088297.6232511.9782711.8632603.099
85 and over1062.0231204.6441,191.6879961.05911036.59210014.749
All ages54.62960.19657.118514.473558.825491.989
Males      
0-444.6425.2945.51546.14550.15050.174
45-6434.43339.03536.593320.650344.261324.878
65-74120.400119.127123.7321071.4421144.9331083.476
75-84310.540343.219354.8442990.3213264.5323105.700
85 and over1152.0161283.9401,279.95210696.27711871.97210820.684
All ages58.11663.21459.313542.303589.163513.939
Females      
0-442.5423.2982.90926.71028.31927.356
45-6421.60020.52322.053192.635207.803195.281
65-7464.78174.58977.992654.146697.084667.067
75-84219.247240.615247.1992084.0822216.9982161.124
85 and over1002.0551152.4051,136.8359473.21610489.2159517.199
All ages51.18957.22254.946487.031528.931470.343

a. Data is by occurrence.
b. Data is provisional and subject to change.
c. Doctor certified and coroner referred deaths are included.
d. The baseline includes deaths from 2017-19 and 2021.
e. Age-specific death rates reflect deaths per 100,000 of the estimated resident population (ERP).
 

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

  • In September 2023 there were 147 deaths due to COVID-19 that were certified by a doctor. This is 65.5% lower than the 426 deaths in September 2022.
  • There have been 3,431 deaths due to COVID-19 certified by a doctor between January and September 2023. This is 58.3% lower than the 8,235 deaths recorded in the same period in 2022.
  • As the pandemic has progressed the number of people dying 'with' COVID-19 has increased. In September 2023 there were 45 people who died with COVID-19 being identified (via death certificates) as a contributing factor to their death (ie. COVID-19 was certified on the death certificate but it was not the underlying cause of death).

Other causes of death

  • Deaths due to respiratory diseases in September 2023 were 20.1% below baseline average and 9.8% lower than in 2022. There were 28 deaths due to influenza in September 2023, compared to 4 in 2022 and a baseline average of 162. Deaths due to pneumonia and chronic lower respiratory diseases were also both well below average.
  • Deaths due to ischaemic heart disease were 14.0% below the baseline average in September 2023 and 13.0% lower than September 2022. In January to September 2023 the number of ischaemic heart disease deaths was 8.8% below baseline and 11.6% lower than in the same period in 2022.
  • Deaths due to cerebrovascular disease were 15.8% lower than the baseline average in September 2023 and 13.8% lower than September 2022.  Cerebrovascular disease deaths from January to September 2023 were 7.3% below baseline average and 5.9% below the same period in 2022.
Doctor certified deaths by cause, 2023, 2022, Baseline
   SeptemberYear to date - January - September
   20232022baseline average20232022baseline average
Cancer4,0854,1143,91638,08437,89235,697
Dementia1,3791,3961,32312,91713,58511,600
Respiratory diseases1,1801,3081,47610,57510,81510,847
 Chronic lower respiratory diseases6477337565,7335,9985,892
 Influenza and pneumonia2292414052,0242,0122,365
  Pneumonia2012372431,7221,7381,860
Ischaemic heart disease1,1051,2701,28510,12811,45811,103
Other cardiac conditions  8989198537,6477,7446,852
Cerebrovascular diseases6988108296,7117,1307,240
Diabetes4534764194,1034,2783,577
COVID-19147426na3,4318,235na

a. Only doctor certified deaths are included.
b. Data is by date of occurrence.
c. The baseline includes deaths from 2017-19 and 2021
 

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)
 Total proportion reported at the end of
Cause of death

the month the death occurred (%)

the month after the death occurred (%)

two months after the death occurred (%)

All cause - doctor and coroner certified43.192.797.1
All cause - doctor certified only44.593.997.9
All cause - coroner certified only24.677.588.1
Ischaemic heart disease (I20 – I25)45.294.998.4
Other cardiac conditions (I26 – I51)45.595.098.6
Cerebrovascular diseases (I60 – I69)45.195.298.6
Respiratory diseases (J00 – J99)45.695.398.7
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40 – J47)45.394.298.1
Influenza and pneumonia (J09 – J18)45.495.498.8
Cancer (C00 – C97, D45, D46, D47.1, D47.3 – D47.5)46.895.398.6
Diabetes (E10 – E14)43.892.897.1
Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease (F01, F03, G30, G31.0, G31.8)46.395.498.7

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 - Sep 2023

Data files

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 3303.0.55.004

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