By 2066, 1 in 5 Australians will be over the age of 65.
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Death is a natural part of life, but the ways in which Australians are dying are changing over time. Rates of dementia are on the rise, and suicide affects more and more people each year, particularly young people. Australia faces an ageing population due to changing demographics and longer life expectancy, meaning that many of us could very well reach the century mark.
How many Australians die each year?
In 2019 there were 169,301 recorded deaths in Australia according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), an increase of 6.8% from 2018. Approximately 52% of these were male deaths, while the other 48% were female. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, men are more likely to engage in risky behaviours, more likely to be homeless or in custody, and are more likely to die from leading causes of death like heart disease. As a result, men tend to die at a younger age than women.
In 2019, those aged between 80 and 90 experienced the highest rate of death. Mortality risk typically declines after birth before slowly increasing again over time. In Australia infant mortality is extremely low, at 3 deaths per 1,000 live births. According to the World Bank, the world average is 28 per 1,000 births.
The longer we live, the greater our risk of dying becomes over time. According to the Gompertz law of mortality, the odds of dying in any given year increase exponentially over one's lifetime, doubling approximately every eight years. By the time an Australian male reaches age 100, he has about a 50% chance of making it to his next birthday.
What is the leading cause of death?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death, but dementia is catching up.
Ischaemic heart disease killed 18,244 people in 2019, an average of 56 deaths per 100,000. Although heart disease has been the top cause of death for quite a while, dementia is poised to take over that top spot in the coming years. The ABS says that over the last decade, deaths from coronary heart disease have been on the decline while deaths from dementia have been rising dramatically.
Australia has a lower mortality rate than the OECD average for most leading causes of death, particularly when it comes to heart disease and cerebrovascular disease. Australia's rate of mortality from dementia (36 per 100,000) is substantially higher than most other OECD countries, but still lower than the Netherlands (57 per 100,000) and Canada (50 per 100,000). Australia also has a slightly higher than average rate of mortality from chronic lower respiratory diseases (30 per 100,000), but still significantly less than Turkey (62 per 100,000) and Columbia (61 per 100,000).
1. Heart disease
Ischaemic heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia. In 2019, there were 18,244 deaths due to heart disease, which accounted for 10.8% of all deaths in Australia. While it was the biggest killer in Australia, the age-standardised death rate from ischaemic heart disease has fallen significantly (34.6%) since 2010.
Dementia was the second largest cause of death in Australia in 2019. In total, 15,016 died from dementia (including Alzheimer's disease). Unlike ischaemic heart disease, which has seen a steady decline in deaths over the past decade, deaths due to dementia have increased by 66.8% since 2010. If the current trend continues, dementia will soon overtake heart disease as the leading cause of death in Australia.
3. Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke)
Cerebrovascular diseases refer to conditions that lead to brain damage due to the interruption of the blood supply to the brain. The most common cerebrovascular disease is a stroke. In 2019, 9,891 people died from cerebrovascular diseases. However, deaths from the diseases decreased by 11.7% since 2010.
4. Lung and throat cancer
Malignant neoplasm of the trachea, bronchus and lung was the fourth leading cause of death in Australia, accounting for 8,821 deaths, most of which were men (5,190), making it the deadliest cancer in Australia. Among Australian men, it was the third most common cause of death (fifth among women). It also killed people younger than other leading causes of death – the median age of death due to lung and throat cancer in 2019 was 74.3.
5. Chronic lower respiratory diseases
Chronic lower respiratory diseases like bronchitis, emphysema and asthma killed 8,372 people in Australia in 2019, 2,243 more than 2010 – that's a 36.6% increase. These top five leading causes of death accounted for more than one-third (35.7 per cent) of all registered deaths.
6. Colon, rectal cancer
The median age of death due to malignant neoplasm of the colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus like colon and rectal cancer was 77.6 years old. Death rates increased slightly since 2010 – 5,247 compared to 5,410 in 2019 – so it's still among the leading causes of death and the second most common cancer in Australia.
Complications and illnesses due to diabetes (Types 1 and 2) killed 4,967 Australians in 2019. While the disease is among the top 10 causes of deaths in Australia, it's the third leading cause of death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, an important factor in contributing towards their low median age at death: 60.9 years old.
8. Blood, bone marrow, lymph node cancer
Australians are well aware of how dangerous these types of cancer can be. In 2019, they killed 4,793. More men died (2,783) due to these types of cancer than women (2,010) in 2019. These types of cancer weren't among the top 10 causes of death among women, but they were for men.
9. Influenza and pneumonia
Influenza and pneumonia was the ninth leading cause of death in Australia in 2019, killing 4,124 people. According to the ABS, influenza deaths have a strong link to the severity of the flu season, which is the main factor in determining how deadly it is each year.
10. Diseases of the urinary system (urinary tract infection, kidney infection)
It may surprise you to find that diseases of the urinary system accounted for 3,903 deaths in Australia in 2019. This is up from 3,315 in 2010.
How do men and women differ in the statistics?
Men are more likely to die by heart disease, while dementia is the leading cause of death in women.
In females, dementia has already surpassed coronary heart disease as the number one cause of death and is responsible for 9,592 deaths. According to the latest statistics by ABS, significantly fewer men died as a result of dementia – there were 5,424 deaths in 2019.
However, men are much more likely to die from coronary heart disease and lung cancer, the former of which accounted for 10,822 male deaths and 7,422 female deaths.
Breast cancer was the sixth leading cause of death among females, accounting for 3,230 deaths, and prostate cancer was the sixth ranked cause of death for males, accounting for 3,611 deaths.
Suicide rates for Australians
Suicide rates are increasing, particularly in men and younger Australians.
Men are much more likely to die from self-harm. In fact, 75% of all deaths due to self-harm occur in males. In total, there were 3,318 registered suicides in Australia in 2019, with a median age of 43.9 at death. Of these, 2,502 were male and 816 were female. 195 were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The suicide rate among young Australians has increased steadily since 2010. In 2019, 74% of male suicides were in 15-24 year-olds, and for women it was 67%.
How do Australians compare globally?
Australians are some of the longest living people in the world.
The average Aussie man can expect to reach his 79th birthday, while women live until age 85 on average. According to data from the World Bank, Hong Kong has the longest life expectancy, where people are expected to reach 85 years of age. Meanwhile the Central African Republic has the lowest life expectancy, where a child born today will reach age 53 on average.
When it comes to surpassing age 100, Japan has the highest rate of centenarians worldwide – approximately 64 people per 100,000 will reach the century mark. This is followed by South Korea (43 people per 100,000) and Barbados (40 people per 100,000). In Australia, the rate of centenarians per 100,000 people is approximately 20.
What are the future trends?
By 2066 one in five Australians will be over the age of 65.
Australia's population is ageing. In 2017, Australians aged 65 and over comprised 15% of the population. By 2066, 21% of the population will be aged 65 and over, and according to research from the University of New South Wales, 16% of women and 10% of men born in 2013 will reach the age of 100.
Do Australians have plans in place?
Three in four Australian adults don't have life insurance.
According to Finder's Consumer Sentiment Tracker, 77% of Australian adults have not taken out life insurance. Worryingly, 1 in 10 (11%) say their loved ones would not be able to get by financially if they were to suddenly pass away, and a further 12% aren't sure.
For the 23% of Australians who have taken out life insurance, superannuation, buying a house and having a baby were the biggest reasons for doing so. Women are more likely to take out life insurance after getting married or having a baby, while men are more likely to have life insurance bundled in with their superannuation.
One in four Australians is unaware that life insurance costs can vary based on personal circumstances.
Many Australians aren't aware of the factors that can impact life insurance premiums, and more than 1 in 4 (27%) believe their premiums aren't impacted by any individual factors. More than half of Australians (54%) aren't aware that smoking can increase how much you pay for life insurance, and 56% aren't aware that a pre-existing medical condition can also increase your premiums. 4 in 5 Australians (80%) didn't know that your profession can also cause insurers to charge you more if you work in a risky field.
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