Latest release

Provisional Mortality Statistics

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

Reference period
Jan - Aug 2020

Key statistics

  • 92,015 doctor certified deaths occurred before 25 August. 
  • Deaths rose in the second half of winter but remain below average.
  • Respiratory disease deaths have been lower than historical minimums since June.
  • Australia had 48 excess deaths in the week beginning 30 March. See article for more.

Data presented in this report are provisional and are not comparable with the annual Deaths and Causes of Death datasets.

Read more in the Methodology.

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 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.

Australian deaths, 1 January to 25 August 2020

All deaths certified by a doctor

Tracking the number of doctor certified deaths against historic averages provides an indication of when excess deaths may occur. In 2020, 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 to enable a comparison of the timelines for the pandemic with changes in numbers of deaths. Over the period from 1 January through to 25 August, the first peak of COVID-19 infections in Australia was recorded from mid-March to mid-April. Numbers were then low through to mid-June before rising to a peak in late July and early August as infection rates in Victoria increased. Future reports will provide more insight into mortality during this second period of higher COVID-19 infections.

  • 92,015 doctor certified deaths occurred between 1 January 2020 and 25 August 2020 and were registered by 31 October. This compares to a baseline average of 91,778 over the past 5 years.
  • Over the four weeks from 18 March to 14 April there were a total of 11,063 deaths, 930 more than the historic average for 2015-19.
  • Deaths remained below historical averages over the winter months. 
  • Deaths were below the historical minimum range for 7 consecutive weeks from 3 June.

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. Weeks in this graph always have 7 days. Leap years result in slightly different dates being included in each week from week 9 on, with week 53 containing two days in a leap year but only one day in other years.
  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 1 November 2020.

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.

  • 8,784 deaths occurred from ischaemic heart disease between 1 January 2020 and 25 August 2020.
  • The average number of deaths recorded for the same period between 2015 and 2019 was 9,936.
  • Counts of ischaemic heart disease deaths have been lower than the baseline average since the week ending 12 May and have tracked lower than the minimum range for much of that period. Between 3 June and 25 August, there have been 3,312 deaths, 671 below the average of 3,983.
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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. Weeks in this graph always have 7 days. Leap years result in slightly different dates being included in each week from week 9 on, with week 53 containing two days in a leap year but only one day in other years.
  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.

  • 5,890 deaths from cerebrovascular diseases (including strokes) occurred between 1 January and 25 August 2020.
  • The average number of deaths recorded for the same period between 2015 and 2019 was 6,426.
  • The number of deaths from cerebrovascular diseases has been below the five year average since the week ending June 23.  Between 29 July and 25 August, there have been 746 deaths, 98 below the average of 844.
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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. Weeks in this graph always have 7 days. Leap years result in slightly different dates being included in each week from week 9 on, with week 53 containing two days in a leap year but only one day in other years.
  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 7,941 deaths from respiratory diseases between 1 January 2020 and 25 August 2020.
  • The average number of deaths for the same period between 2015 and 2019 was 9,080.
  • Over the four weeks from 18 March to 14 April there were a total of 1,046 respiratory disease deaths, 155 more than the historic average for 2015-19.
  • Since the week ending 9 June, the weekly number of deaths due to respiratory diseases has remained below the historic minimum for 2015-19.
  • Between 3 June and 25 August, there have been 2,764 deaths, 1,275 below the average of 4,039.
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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. Weeks in this graph always have 7 days. Leap years result in slightly different dates being included in each week from week 9 on, with week 53 containing two days in a leap year but only one day in other years.
  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 4,314 deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases from 1 January to 25 August 2020.
  • The average of number of deaths for the same period from 2015 to 2019 was 4,902.
  • The number of deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases decreased relative to baseline averages during April, and was below the minimum range since early May. Between 3 June and 25 August, there have been 1,497 deaths, 616 below the average of 2,113.
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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. Weeks in this graph always have 7 days. Leap years result in slightly different dates being included in each week from week 9 on, with week 53 containing two days in a leap year but only one day in other years.
  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 1,547 deaths due to influenza and pneumonia recorded from 1 January to 25 August 2020.
  • The average number of deaths recorded over the same period from 2015 to 2019 was 2,024.

Influenza

  • In the 8 months to 25 August 2020, there have been 42 deaths due to influenza, with 40 of those deaths occurring before 22 April. 

Pneumonia

  • Over the three weeks from 25 March to 14 April there were a total of 208 pneumonia deaths, 81 more than the historic average for 2015-19.
  • Numbers of deaths due to pneumonia decreased towards the end of April, falling below historic averages. Numbers have remained below baseline averages since the week ending 28 April and below the minimum since mid June. Between 3 June and 25 August, there have been 514 deaths, 278 below the average of 792.
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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. Weeks in this graph always have 7 days. Leap years result in slightly different dates being included in each week from week 9 on, with week 53 containing two days in a leap year but only one day in other years.
  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.

  • 30,985 deaths from cancer occurred between 1 January and 25 August 2020.
  • The average number of deaths for the same time period from 2015-2019 was 30,103.
  • Numbers of cancer deaths were generally higher than historical baseline averages but below maximums for most of the year.
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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. Weeks in this graph always have 7 days. Leap years result in slightly different dates being included in each week from week 9 on, with week 53 containing two days in a leap year but only one day in other years.
  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.

  • 3,144 deaths from diabetes occurred between 1 January to 25 August 2020.
  • The average number of deaths over the same period from 2015 and 2019 was 2,924.
  • Over the six weeks from 25 March to 5 May, diabetes deaths were above 5 year maximums. A total of 630 diabetes deaths were recorded during those 6 weeks, 162 more than the historic average for 2015-19.
  • Deaths from diabetes declined slowly from mid April. They remained mostly above average until late June, before falling below average for all but the last week of July. They have fluctuated around average since then.
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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. Weeks in this graph always have 7 days. Leap years result in slightly different dates being included in each week from week 9 on, with week 53 containing two days in a leap year but only one day in other years.
  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 counts against baseline averages.

  • 9,532 deaths from dementia, including Alzheimer disease, occurred between 1 January and 25 August 2020.
  • The average number of deaths for the same period from 2015 to 2019 was 8,812.
  • Deaths due to dementia were above historical averages in all weeks from January through to the end of April, and mostly above the maximum range. Since May, dementia deaths have more closely tracked the historic average.
  • Over the six weeks from 18 March to 4 May there were a total of 1,812 deaths, 337 more than the historical averages for 2015-19.
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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. Weeks in this graph always have 7 days. Leap years result in slightly different dates being included in each week from week 9 on, with week 53 containing two days in a leap year but only one day in other years.
  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 historic 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 2020 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 cause45.8%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.

Initial counts of deaths for June 2020 were considerably lower than historic averages. This was investigated in collaboration with the Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages to ensure it was not a result of administrative processing issues. The slight delay to reporting of data for June allowed for the inclusion of additional deaths registered and reported in August (as opposed to those reported up to the end of July). As such, data for June will be unlikely to increase as much as that for other months as new reports are released.

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Future releases

Updates to this report will be released on a monthly basis. Tracking of all doctor certified deaths and deaths by specified causes will continue throughout 2020.

Each new report will include those deaths that have been registered and reported to the ABS since the previous report. As some of those deaths will have occurred in time periods covered in previous reports, the counts of deaths for those time periods will change from one report to the next.

Numbers of deaths cannot be aggregated across months to calculate a quarterly or annual count of deaths, as additional deaths for any given reference period can be registered and reported many months after the date on which they occur. 

Data downloads

Provisional mortality statistics weekly dashboard, Jan-Jul 2020

Doctor certified deaths by week of occurrence, 2015-19

Excess mortality

All data cubes

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 3303.0.55.004