Changing patterns of mortality reflect ageing population

Heart disease, dementia, stroke, lung cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases remain the top 5 leading causes of death in Australia, accounting for more than one third of all deaths.


ABS Director of the Health and Vital Statistics Section James Eynstone-Hinkins said the ABS Causes of Death report released today focuses on the underlying and associated causes of the 153,580 deaths reported in 2014.


"Changes in the leading causes of death over time provide an insight into the effects of population ageing, increased life expectancy, lifestyle factors and advancements in medical treatments," said Mr Eynstone-Hinkins.


Life expectancy continues to increase in Australia, reaching 80.3 years of age for males and 84.4 years of age for females. As the population has aged, diseases such as dementia (including Alzheimer's disease) have increased.


"There were close to 12,000 deaths from dementia in 2014, compared with 8,200 deaths in 2009. Dementia became Australia's second leading cause of death in 2013, surpassing strokes," said Mr Eynstone-Hinkins.


Heart disease remains the leading cause for both males and females. Deaths from heart disease have decreased over the past 20 years, but still accounted for one in seven male deaths and one in eight female deaths in 2014.


There are seven types of cancers included in the top 20 leading causes of death, comprising lung, blood, colon, prostate, breast, pancreatic and skin cancers. Over the past 10 years, all forms of cancer combined have consistently accounted for close to 30 per cent of all deaths.


Leading causes of death naturally reflect causes most common among the elderly. Patterns of mortality among younger people are quite different.


Among people 15-44 years of age, the leading cause of death is suicide, followed by accidental poisonings and land transport accidents.


Suicide is the leading cause of premature mortality in Australia, occurring at a rate of 12.0 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014. This is the highest rate of suicide deaths recorded in the past 10 years, with previous rates ranging from 10.2 to 11.2 deaths per 100,000 people.


Comprehensive data and analysis can be found in Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0):


For crisis or suicide prevention support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or see


8 March 2016.