Australia’s leading causes of death in 2015

Peter Terlato 28 September 2016

Hospital death patient

Heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and dementia take a lot of lives.

Of the almost 160,000 deaths in Australia last year the most common cause was Ischaemic heart disease; the grim reaper that has held the title for the past 10 years.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Leading Causes of Death 2015 report reveals 12.43% of all deaths in Australia last year were caused by ischaemic heart disease. The median age at death of these sufferers was 85.1 years.

Ischaemic heart disease is a blockage or narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle, often the result of a buildup of fatty plaque inside the arteries. A severe enough blockage can cause a heart attack. The condition includes acute myocardial infarction, angina and chronic ischaemic disease.

Ischaemic heart disease has consistently been Australia's leading cause of death for the last decade, however, the standardised rate of death has decreased dramatically from 103.5 per 100,000 in 2006 to 66.1 per 100,000 in 2015.

The second most common cause of death in Australia, dementia (including Alzheimer's disease), has actually increased from 4.9% of all deaths in 2006 to 7.9% of deaths in 2015.

Cerebrovascular diseases (6.8%), cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung (5.3%) and chronic lower respiratory diseases (5%) round out the top five.

These five diseases were responsible for more than one-third (37.6%) of all deaths registered in 2015.

Australia's leading causes of death 2015

Cause of deathNo. of deathsRankMedian age at death
Ischaemic heart diseases19 777185.1
Dementia, including Alzheimer disease12 625288.6
Cerebrovascular diseases10 869386.6
Trachea, bronchus and lung cancer8 466473.5
Chronic lower respiratory diseases7 991581.7
Diabetes4 662682.1
Colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus cancer4 433776
Blood and lymph cancer (including leukaemia)4 412877.5
Heart failure3 541988.2
Diseases of the urinary system3 4331086.9
Prostate cancer3 1951182.4
Influenza and pneumonia3 0421288.6
Intentional self-harm3 0271344.5
Breast cancer2 9671470.7
Pancreatic cancer2 7601575.1
Accidental falls2 4741687
Cardiac arrhythmias2 3271788.1
Hypertensive diseases2 2851888.3
Skin cancers2 1621976.4
Cirrhosis and other diseases of liver1 8572063.3

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) dementia in Australia ranked higher (#2), on average, than similar high income countries (#4) around the globe.

Although a cause of death may have a lower incidence rate than another, its impact on premature death rates may be greater.

For example, intentional self-harm accounted for just 1.9% of all deaths, with a median age at death of 44.5 years. However, it made up 10.7% of total years of potential life lost in 2015, while ischaemic heart disease accounted for only 7.8%.

Causes of death among men and women were very similar, although malignant neoplasms of lymphoid, haematopoietic and related tissue and intentional self-harm were only ranked in the top 10 leading causes for men, while malignant neoplasms of breast, heart failure and diseases of the urinary system were only represented in the female top 10.

Australians don’t trust private health insurers, cancer patients suffer the worst financial stress, Aussies in regional areas are more likely to suffer mental health conditions and self-harm and nationwide, our diets are worse than ever. It's a good thing these 10 medicines are about to get much cheaper.

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Picture: Shutterstock

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