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Coronary heart disease is the leading underlying cause of death in Australia, followed by dementia and Alzheimer disease, and cerebrovascular disease (which includes stroke). Lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) make up the top 5 leading underlying causes of death in Australia in 2014, for males and females of all ages combined.
Figure 1 below shows the number of male and female deaths contributing to the top 5 causes. Males account for more deaths due to coronary heart disease, lung cancer and COPD. Females account for the majority of deaths due to cerebrovascular disease and dementia and Alzheimer disease. For more leading causes of death by sex see Table S1.
Note: See Classifying causes of death for more details on cause of death groups used. For each cause of death, International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th revision (ICD-10) codes are presented in parentheses.
Source: AIHW National Mortality Database (Table S1).
The leading underlying causes of death are different at different ages. In general, chronic disease causes of death feature more prominently among people aged 45 and over while the leading causes of death among people aged 1–44 are external causes such as land transport accidents and suicides.
Coronary heart disease is the most common underlying cause of death in Australia for people aged 45 and over, followed by dementia and Alzheimer disease, cerebrovascular disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Suicide was the leading underlying cause of deaths among persons aged 25–44 (20% of deaths) and persons aged 15–24 (31% of deaths). Land transport accidents were the most common underlying cause of death among persons aged 1–14 (13% of deaths).
Among infants, certain conditions originating in the perinatal period and congenital conditions were responsible for most deaths (75% of deaths). Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was the third leading cause of death among infants, accounting for 5% of infant deaths.
See more on Premature mortality in Australia.
Note: See Classifying causes of death for more details on cause of death groups used. ‘Other ill-defined causes’ include the following codes: Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (ICD-10 codes R00–R99 excluding R95: Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)); Cardiac arrest, unspecified (I46.9); Respiratory failure of newborn (P28.5); Other unspecified convulsions (R56.8). SIDS refers to sudden infant death syndrome. COPD refers to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. AIHW General Record of Incidence of Mortality (GRIM) books are available for selected leading causes of death.
Source: AIHW National Mortality Database (Table S2).
Leading underlying causes of death are determined by grouping highly specific causes of death and counting the number of deaths assigned to each cause group. Over 14,000 specific causes of illness, injury and death are presented in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Revision (ICD-10). These causes can be grouped in a way that is meaningful for public health purposes.
A common grouping is by ICD chapters which are broad categories arranged according to the type of disease, the body system affected by the disease or the circumstances causing death. Each chapter is further divided into blocks of related diseases. Australian cause of death data by ICD-10 chapters and selected causes of death are published in the AIHW General Record of Incidence of Mortality (GRIM) books.
For leading underlying cause of death analysis, however, information needs to be more specific than ICD chapters and blocks. There is no standard method for grouping causes, however, the AIHW follows the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) (Becker et al. 2006) with minor modifications to suit the Australian context. This grouping is a mix of ICD chapters, blocks and specific diseases to maximise information, separate out ill-defined causes and highlight health priority areas.
The leading underlying causes of death presented here are classified using the AIHW-modified version of Becker et al. 2006.
AIHW GRIM (General Record of Incidence of Mortality) books.
Becker R, Silvi J, Ma Fat D, L'Hours A, Laurenti R. 2006. A method for deriving leading causes of death. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 84:297–304.