Leading Causes of Death in Australia

Published: 22 July 2021

The way Australians are living and dying has changed considerably over recent decades.

Awareness of these changing patterns allows for a better understanding of the population’s health and for improved consideration of individual health and lifestyle choices.

How many Australians die each year?

  • In 2019 there were 169,301 registered deaths in Australia, an increase of 6.8% (10,808) from 2018.
  • 52.2% of deaths were male (88,346) and 47.8% were female (80,955).
Deaths in Australian demographics - male, female and age group distribution

What are the leading causes of death in Australia?

In 2019:

  • The leading cause of death was coronary heart disease accounting for 10.8% of all deaths (18,244). Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, was the 2nd leading cause of death accounting for 8.9% of all deaths (15,016).
  • Cerebrovascular diseases, such as stroke, were the 3rd leading cause of all deaths accounting for 5.8% (9,891 deaths).
  • Cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung was the 4th leading cause of all deaths accounting for 5.2% (8,821 deaths).
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, emphysema and asthma rounded out the top five leading causes accounting for 4.9% of all deaths (8,372).
  • Influenza and pneumonia were the 9th leading cause of all deaths (4,124) in 2019, a 33% increase from 2018. 
  • Suicide was the 13th leading cause of death, with the lowest median age at death at 43.9.

The five leading causes accounted for over one-third of all deaths (35.6%) among males and females in 2019.

Leading causes of death in Australia

Changes in standardised death rate (SDR)

From 2010 to 2019 the standardised death rate (SDR) for:

  • coronary heart disease decreased by 34.6%
  • dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease increased by 27.2%
  • cerebrovascular diseases, such as stroke decreased by 31.5%
  • cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung decreased by 15.8%
  • chronic lower respiratory diseases increased by 5.3%
  • suicides increased by 15.2%

Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease has been the leading cause of all deaths for over half a century. It reached its peak in 1968 when it was responsible for almost one-third of all deaths, and has been declining since.

Coronary heart disease death rate in Australia -decrease

Related resources

Sources

  • ABS: Causes of Death, Australia (release: 2020)
  • ABS: Changing Patterns of Mortality in Australia, 1968-2017
  • AIHW: Deaths in Australia (release: 2021)
  • ABS: Deaths, Australia (release: 2020)

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