3303.0 - Causes of Death, Australia, 2017 Quality Declaration 
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Australia’s leading causes of death, 2017

In 2017, there were 160,909 deaths in Australia (82,858 males and 78,051 females).The leading cause of death was Ischaemic heart disease (18,590 deaths), accounting for 11.6% of all deaths. While remaining the leading cause of death, the number of deaths from Ischaemic heart disease has been steadily declining over the past decade. The death rate has decreased from 99.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2008 to 59.3 per 100,000 in 2017, and the number of deaths has decreased by 21.9%.

Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, remained the second leading cause of death in 2017, accounting for 13,729 deaths. The number of deaths from Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease has increased by 68.0% over the past decade with the death rate increasing from 33.1 deaths per 100,000 people in 2008 to 41.6 in 2017.

Cerebrovascular diseases (6.3%), Chronic lower respiratory diseases (5.2%) and Cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung (5.1%) complete the top five leading causes of death. While the top five remain the same as 2016, Chronic lower respiratory diseases and Cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung have swapped ranking. In total the top five leading causes accounted for more than one-third (36.7%) of all deaths registered in 2017.

In 2017, Influenza and pneumonia accounted for 4,269 deaths and was the 9th leading cause of death. 2017 was noted for having a particularly bad flu season and this led to an increased number of influenza deaths, although it should be noted that pneumonia still accounted for the majority of deaths in this category. Further information on influenza is provided in a separate article.

The ABS ranks leading causes of death in this publication based on research presented by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Volume 84, Number 4, April 2006, 297-304. Leading causes are based on the underlying cause of death, defined by the World Health Organization as the disease or external event which initiated the train of morbid events leading to death.

Leading cause tabulations provide a simplified view of mortality data which does not necessarily take account of changes within leading cause groupings, changes in key demographics or other conditions (multiple causes of death) that are often listed on a death certificate. See the article: Looking beneath the surface of leading causes of death, for further information.


Leading Causes of Death, Australia - Selected years - 2008, 2012, 2017 (a)(b)(c)(d)

2008
2012
2017
Median Age (2017)
Cause of death and ICD code
no.
Rank
no.
Rank
no.
Rank
years

Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)
23,813
1
20,108
1
18,590
1
85.0
Dementia, including Alzheimer disease (F01, F03, G30)
8,172
3
10,367
3
13,729
2
88.8
Cerebrovascular diseases (I60-I69)
11,979
2
10,785
2
10,186
3
86.3
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47)
6,255
5
6,647
5
8,357
4
81.0
Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34)
7,956
4
8,138
4
8,262
5
73.7
Malignant neoplasm of colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21, C26.0) (c)
5,274
6
5,124
6
5,325
6
77.5
Diabetes (E10-E14)
4,181
7
4,241
7
4,839
7
81.9
Malignant neoplasms of lymphoid, haematopoietic and related tissue (C81-C96)
3,887
8
4,001
8
4,499
8
77.6
Influenza and pneumonia (J09-J18)
1,760
17
2,723
13
4,269
9
88.3
Diseases of the urinary system (N00-N39)
3,235
10
3,712
9
3,565
10
87.1
Heart failure and complications and ill-defined heart disease (I50-I51)
3,363
9
3,494
10
3,487
11
88.7
Malignant neoplasm of prostate (C61)
3,031
11
3,078
11
3,275
12
82.3
Intentional self-harm (X60-X84, Y87.0)(d)
2,341
13
2,580
14
3,128
13
44.5
Malignant neoplasm of pancreas (C25)
2,289
14
2,524
15
2,996
14
75.1
Malignant neoplasms of breast (C50)
2,789
12
2,819
12
2,928
15
71.2
Accidental falls (W00-W19)
1,461
21
2,017
17
2,782
16
87.5
Cardiac arrhythmias (I47-I49)
1,550
19
1,721
19
2,330
17
88.4
Hypertensive diseases (I10-I15)
1,833
16
1,861
18
2,317
18
88.3
Melanoma and other malignant neoplasms of skin  (C43-C44)
1,857
15
2,036
16
2,011
19
77.8
Symptoms, signs and ill-defined conditions (R00-R99)
853
37
1,337
26
1,938
20
72.9

Footnote(s):
(a) Causes listed are the top 20 leading causes of death for 2017, based on the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Explanatory Notes 36-39 in this publication for further information. Groupings of deaths coded to Chapter XVIII: Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99) are not included in analysis, due to the unspecific nature of these causes. Furthermore, many deaths coded to this chapter are likely to be affected by revisions, and hence recoded to more specific causes of death as they progress through the revisions process.
(b) See Explanatory Notes 75-106 for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2017 data.
(c) The data presented for Malignant neoplasm of the colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21) includes deaths due to Malignant neoplasm of the intestinal tract, part unspecified (C26.0). Comparisons with data for this leading cause, and associated leading cause rankings, should therefore be made with caution. See Explanatory Note 38 in this publication for further details.
(d) The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See Explanatory Notes 91-100 in this publication.


Graph Image for Leading causes of death, standardised death rates, 2008-2017(a)(b)(c)(d)

Footnote(s): (a) Causes listed are the leading causes of death for all deaths registered in 2017, based on WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Explanatory Notes 36-39 for further information. (b) Standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See Explanatory Notes 44-47 for further information. (c) Causes of death data for 2017 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See Explanatory Notes 57-60. (d) See Explanatory Notes 75-106 for further information on specific issues related to interpreting time-series and 2017 data.

Source(s): Leading causes of death, standardised death rates, 2008-2017(a)(b)(c)(d)-Leading causes of death, standardised death rates, 2008-2017(a)(b)(c)(d)



Years of Potential Life Lost

Counts of deaths provide one measure of the impact of particular diseases, but they do not take into account the ages at which deaths occur. Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) measures the extent of 'premature' mortality from specific diseases or trauma, counting the total number of years between age at death and an 'average' life expectancy for deaths that occur before that average age. In Australia, this is assumed to be any death between the ages of 1-78 years, inclusive.

The graph below presents the leading causes of death which contributed to the top 20 YPLL count in 2017. While a cause of death may have a lower incidence than that of another, its impact when measured in terms of premature death may be greater as a result of that cause affecting a younger demographic. Intentional self-harm accounted for 1.9% of all deaths, while Ischaemic heart diseases accounted for 11.6%. However, with a median age at death of 44.5 years, intentional self-harm contributed 11.4% of total YPLLs in 2017, compared to 7.4% from Ischaemic heart diseases, which has a median age at death of 85.0 years.

Graph Image for Leading Causes of Death and YPLL, 2017(a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)

Footnote(s): (a) Causes listed are the top 20 leading causes of death for 2017, based on the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Explanatory Notes 36-39 in this publication for further information. Groupings of deaths coded to Chapter XVIII: Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99) are not included in analysis, due to the unspecific nature of these causes. Furthermore, many deaths coded to this chapter are likely to be affected by revisions, and hence recoded to more specific causes of death as they progress through the revisions process. (b) Causes of death data for 2017 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See Explanatory Notes 57-60. (c) The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See Explanatory Notes 91-100 in this publication. (d) The data presented for Malignant neoplasm of the colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21) includes deaths due to Malignant neoplasm of the intestinal tract, part unspecified (C26.0). Comparisons with data for this leading cause, and associated leading cause rankings, should therefore be made with caution. See Explanatory Note 38 in this publication for further details. (e) The data presented for Land transport accidents includes ICD-10 codes V01-V89 and Y85. See Explanatory Note 39 in this publication. (f) The ranking of YPLL data presented in this table is based only on the 20 causes listed. When considering the full listing of leading causes of death, including those not in the leading 20, the YPLL ranking would be different. See Explanatory Notes 40-43 for further information on Years of Potential Life Lost.

Source(s): Leading Causes of Death and YPLL, 2017(a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)-Leading Causes of Death and YPLL, 2017(a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)



Leading Causes of Death by Sex

In 2017, the leading cause of death for males was Ischaemic heart disease (10,514 deaths), while for females it was Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease (8,859 deaths). Over the past decade the number of deaths from heart disease has decreased for both sexes, while dementia deaths have increased. Females account for 64.5% of dementia deaths while males account for 56.6% of ischaemic heart disease deaths.

The top 5 leading causes for both sexes comprise the same conditions (Ischaemic heart disease, Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, Cerebrovascular diseases, Chronic lower respiratory diseases and Malignant neoplasms of the trachea, bronchus and lung) but the ranking of those conditions differs considerably. Cerebrovascular diseases account for a higher number of female deaths and rank third compared to fourth for males, while lung cancer deaths are more common among men ranking second compared to fifth among females.

The sex specific cancers (Malignant neoplasm of prostate and Malignant neoplasm of breast) were the sixth leading causes of deaths for males and females respectively. Prostate cancer was the cause of 3,275 male deaths while breast cancer caused 2,898 female deaths. Colorectal cancer was the seventh ranked leading cause for both males and females.

Intentional self-harm was the tenth leading cause of death among males in 2017, accounting for 2,348 deaths while it does not rank in the top 20 leading causes for females. Approximately three quarters of Intentional self-harm deaths are of males.


Leading Causes of Death, Australia - by sex - 2017 (a)(b)(c)

Males
Females
Cause of death and ICD code
no.
rank
Cause of death and ICD code
no.
rank

Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)
10,514
1
Dementia, including Alzheimer disease (F01, F03, G30)
8,859
1
Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34)
4,911
2
Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25)
8,076
2
Dementia, including Alzheimer disease (F01, F03, G30)
4,870
3
Cerebrovascular diseases (I60-I69)
5,884
3
Cerebrovascular diseases (I60-I69)
4,302
4
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47)
4,089
4
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47)
4,268
5
Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung (C33, C34)
3,351
5
Malignant neoplasm of prostate (C61)
3,275
6
Malignant neoplasms of breast (C50)
2,898
6
Malignant neoplasm of colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21, C26.0)(b)
2,862
7
Malignant neoplasm of colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21, C26.0)(b)
2,463
7
Malignant neoplasms of lymphoid, haematopoietic and related tissue (C81-C96)
2,660
8
Influenza and pneumonia (J09-J18)
2,326
8
Diabetes (E10-E14)
2,583
9
Diabetes (E10-E14)
2,256
9
Intentional self-harm (X60-X84, Y870)(c)
2,348
10
Diseases of the urinary system (N00-N39)
1,958
10
Influenza and pneumonia (J09-J18)
1,943
11
Heart failure and complications and ill-defined heart disease (I50-I51)
1,905
11
Diseases of the urinary system (N00-N39)
1,607
12
Malignant neoplasms of lymphoid, haematopoietic and related tissue (C81-C96)
1,839
12
Heart failure and complications and ill-defined heart disease (I50-I51)
1,582
13
Accidental falls (W00-W19)
1,469
13
Malignant neoplasm of pancreas (C25)
1,566
14
Hypertensive diseases (I10-I15)
1,467
14
Accidental falls (W00-W19)
1,313
15
Cardiac arrhythmias (I47-I49)
1,460
15
Melanoma and other malignant neoplasms of skin  (C43-C44)
1,303
16
Malignant neoplasm of pancreas (C25)
1,430
16
Cirrhosis and other diseases of liver (K70-K76)
1,295
17
Malignant neoplasm of ovary (C56)
990
17
Malignant neoplasm of liver and intrahepatic bile ducts (C22)
1,241
18
Symptoms, signs and ill-defined conditions (R00-R99)
926
18
Parkinson's disease (G20)
1,142
19
Nonrheumatic valve disorders (I34-I38)
918
19
Symptoms, signs and ill-defined conditions (R00-R99)
1,012
20
Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (M00-M99)
911
20

Footnote(s):
(a) Causes listed are the top 20 leading causes of death for 2017, based on the WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Explanatory Notes 36-39 in this publication for further information. Groupings of deaths coded to Chapter XVIII: Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99) are not included in analysis, due to the unspecific nature of these causes. Furthermore, many deaths coded to this chapter are likely to be affected by revisions, and hence recoded to more specific causes of death as they progress through the revisions process.
(b) The data presented for Malignant neoplasm of the colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21) includes deaths due to Malignant neoplasm of the intestinal tract, part unspecified (C26.0). Comparisons with data for this leading cause, and associated leading cause rankings, should therefore be made with caution. See Explanatory Note 38 in this publication for further details.
(c) The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See Explanatory Notes 91-100 in this publication.


Graph Image for Standardised death rates for leading causes of death, in males, 2017(a)(b)(c)(d)(e)

Footnote(s): (a) Causes listed are the top 10 leading causes of death for all deaths registered in 2017, based on WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Explanatory Notes 36-39 for further information. (b) Standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See Explanatory Notes 44-47 for further information. (c) Causes of death data for 2017 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See Explanatory Notes 57-60. (d) The data presented for Malignant neoplasm of the colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21) includes deaths due to Malignant neoplasm of the intestinal tract, part unspecified (C26.0). Comparisons with data for this leading cause, and associated leading cause rankings, should therefore be made with caution. See Explanatory Note 38 in this publication for further details. (e) The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See Explanatory Notes 91-100 in this publication.

Source(s): Standardised death rates for leading causes of death, in males, 2017(a)(b)(c)(d)(e)-Standardised death rates for leading causes of death, in males, 2017(a)(b)(c)(d)(e)



Graph Image for Standardised death rates for leading causes of death, in females, 2017(a)(b)(c)(d)

Footnote(s): (a) Causes listed are the top 10 leading causes of death for all deaths registered in 2017, based on WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Explanatory Notes 36-39 for further information. (b) Standardised death rate. Death rate per 100,000 estimated resident population as at 30 June (mid year). See Explanatory Notes 44-47 for further information. (c) Causes of death data for 2017 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See Explanatory Notes 57-60. (d) The data presented for Malignant neoplasm of the colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21) includes deaths due to Malignant neoplasm of the intestinal tract, part unspecified (C26.0). Comparisons with data for this leading cause, and associated leading cause rankings, should therefore be made with caution. See Explanatory Note 38 in this publication for further details.

Source(s): Standardised death rates for leading causes of death, in females, 2017(a)(b)(c)(d)-Standardised death rates for leading causes of death, in females, 2017(a)(b)(c)(d)



Sex ratios

The graph below depicts the underlying causes of death with the largest sex ratios, within the top 20 leading causes of death in Australia in 2017 (excluding sex-specific causes such as prostate cancer).

Intentional self-harm was the cause most likely to affect males, with 301 male deaths for every 100 female deaths. Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, was the cause which most predominantly affected females, with 55 male deaths for every 100 female deaths.

Greatest sex ratios within the 20 leading causes of death, 2017 (a)(b)(c)


Footnote(s):
(a) Causes listed are the leading causes of death for all deaths registered in 2017, based on WHO recommended tabulation of leading causes. See Explanatory Notes 36-39 for further information.
(b) Causes of death data for 2017 are preliminary and subject to a revisions process. See Explanatory Notes 57-60.
(c) The data presented for intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See Explanatory Notes 91-100 in this publication.