Death statistics Australia

What's the leading cause of death in Australia? How do we compare to the rest of the world? Find out other death statistics with our guide.

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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 2020 there were 161,300 recorded deaths in Australia according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), a decrease of 4.7% from 2019. 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 2020, those aged between 85 and 94 experienced the highest number of deaths at 51,461. Mortality risk typically declines after birth before slowly increasing again over time. In Australia infant mortality is extremely low, at 3.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. According to the World Health Organization in 2018, the global average is 29 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 8 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 16,587 people in 2020, an average of 64.6 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 reports that over the last decade, deaths from heart disease have been on the decline while deaths from dementia have been rising.

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. Lithuania (340 per 100,000) and Hungary (270 per 100,000) have some of the highest rates of heart disease in the OECD.

Australia's rate of mortality from dementia (27 per 100,000) is slightly higher than most other OECD countries, but still lower than the Netherlands (54 per 100,000) and Sweden (46 per 100,000).

1. Heart disease

Ischaemic heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia. In 2020, there were 16,587 deaths due to heart disease, which accounted for 10.3% of all deaths in the country. While it was the biggest killer in Australia, the age-standardised death rate from ischaemic heart disease has fallen significantly (39.7%) since 2011.

2. Dementia

Dementia was the second largest cause of death in Australia in 2020. In total, 14,575 people died from dementia (including Alzheimer's disease). Unlike ischaemic heart disease, which has seen a steady decline in deaths over the past decade, the number of deaths due to dementia has increased by 13.1% since 2011. If the current trend continues, dementia may 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 2020, 9,470 people died from cerebrovascular diseases. However, the death rate from the diseases has decreased by 34.5% since 2011.

4. Lung and throat cancer

Malignant neoplasm of the trachea, bronchus and lung was the fourth leading cause of death in Australia, accounting for 8,457 deaths, most of which were men (4,751), making it the deadliest cancer in Australia. Among Australian men, it was the third most common cause of death (fourth among women). It also killed people younger than other leading causes of death, with an estimated 51,581 years of potential life lost in 2020.

5. Chronic lower respiratory diseases

Chronic lower respiratory diseases like bronchitis, emphysema and asthma killed 7,102 people in Australia in 2020, a 17.8% decrease in the death rate since 2019. These top 5 leading causes of death accounted for more than one-third (34.8%) of all registered deaths.

6. Colon, rectal cancer

There were an estimated 37,376 years of life lost due to malignant neoplasms of the colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus like colon and rectal cancer in 2020. The death rate has remained relatively stable since 2011, but it's still among the leading causes of death and the second most common cancer in Australia.

7. Diabetes

Complications and illnesses due to diabetes (Types 1 and 2) killed 5,148 Australians in 2020. While the disease is among the top 10 causes of deaths in Australia, it's the second leading cause of death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, an important factor in contributing towards their low median age at death: 61.8 years old.

8. Blood, bone marrow, lymph node cancer

Australians are well aware of how dangerous these types of cancer can be. In 2020, they killed 4,754 people. More men died (2,808) due to these types of cancer than women (1,952) in 2020. The median age at death due to blood, bone marrow and lymph node cancer in 2020 was 78.5, which is younger than the overall median age at death (81.7).

9. Diseases of the urinary system (urinary tract infection, kidney infection)

It may surprise you to find that diseases of the urinary system accounted for 4,019 deaths in Australia in 2020. Death from these diseases is more common among women (2,154) than men (1,865).

10. Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer only affects men, but it's still among the leading causes of death in Australia. In 2020, 3,568 Australians died from prostate cancer, a slight increase from 3,294 in 2011. The median age of death is 82.5.

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 9,325 deaths. According to the latest statistics by ABS, significantly fewer men died as a result of dementia – there were 5,250 deaths in 2020.

Men are much more likely to die from ischaemic heart disease and lung cancer, the former of which accounted for 10,040 male deaths and 6,547 female deaths.

Breast cancer was the sixth leading cause of death among females, accounting for 3,110 deaths, and prostate cancer was the sixth ranked cause of death for males, accounting for 3,658 deaths.

Suicide rates for Australians

Men are much more likely than women to die from self-harm. In fact, 76% of all deaths due to self-harm occur in males. In total, there were 3,139 registered suicides in Australia in 2020, with a median age of 43.5 at death. Of these, 2,384 were male and 755 were female. 197 were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The suicide rate among Australians has declined slightly since 2017. The death rate due to self-harm is 18.7 per 100,000 for males and 5.8 per 100,000 for females.

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.

By 2066 1 in 5 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?

3 in 4 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.

1 in 4 Australians are 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.

Compare some options for life insurance

If you're concerned about your health and about the welfare of those close to you, why not consider life insurance? Life insurance can provide your family with peace of mind in the event something happens to you.

1 - 7 of 16
Name Product Maximum Cover Maximum Entry Age Terminal Illness Benefit Average Claims Acceptance Rate Average Claim Time Sum Insured
NobleOak Life Insurance
$15,000,000
69
$15,000,000
Data not available
Data not available
$20,230 million
Get 2 months free when you apply for one or more life insurance types with NobleOak's Premium Life Direct policy before 30 June 2022. T&Cs apply
TAL Life Insurance
$2,000,000
74
$2,000,000
88.50%
3 months
$36,630 million
Comprehensive cover from one of Australia’s leading insurers. Get up to 15% off with TAL’s Health Sense program, plus counselling and financial planning benefits.
Real Family Life Cover
$1,000,000
64
$1,000,000
85.20%
2.1 months
$53,462 million
Get a refund of 10% of the premiums you've paid (in the first 12 months) with The Real Reward™ .
Medibank Life Insurance
$2,500,000
70
$2,500,000
91.70%
4.2 months
$31,745 million
With Medibank Life Insurance, you’ll also get access to the 24/7 Medibank Nurse phone service. Medibank health members will save 10% on premiums every year. T&Cs apply.
Zurich Ezicover Life Insurance
$1,500,000
69
$1,500,000
Data not available
Data not available
$12,444 million
Get your first month free and a 10% discount by taking out a second life insurance policy (discount applies to the second policy). T&C’s apply.
ahm Life Insurance
$1,500,000
65
$1,500,000
91.70%
4.2 months
$31,745 million
Get ahm life insurance by 30 June and keep your cover for 6 months to receive $100 cashback. T&Cs apply^.
RAC Life Insurance (Only available in Western Australia)
$25,000,000
69
$25,000,000
Data not available
Data not available
$20,230 million
When you purchase RAC Life Insurance, WA residents receive complimentary RAC membership which includes access to discounts on fuel, savings on shopping, entertainment and more. T&Cs at rac.com.au.
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Compare up to 4 providers

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Causes of Death, 2020
  2. OECD Stat, 2018
  3. Finder Consumer Sentiment Tracker, 2019-2021

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    GrahamOctober 2, 2021

    Of the covid related deaths since the commencement/inception of the pandemic, how many were not vaccinated.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JamesOctober 6, 2021Staff

      Hi Graham,

      As of this time, we don’t have data on the number of unvaccinated people who died of COVID. To get a more accurate answer, we suggest that you check with the Department of Health. You may call them on 1800 020 080.

      Best,
      James

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