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Table 3.1 presents the leading causes of premature mortality in Australia in 2010–2012.

Table 3.1: Leading causes of premature death among people aged less than 75, 2010–2012
Rank Cause of death Deaths Per cent Rate PYLL PAD Per cent premature
1 Coronary heart disease (I20–I25) 15,507 10.3 24.7 196,198 YES 24.5
2 Lung cancer (C33, C34) 13,350 8.9 21.2 147,349 NO 54.8
3 Suicide (X60–X84) 6,798 4.5 10.8 225,477 YES 91.9
4 Colorectal cancer (C18–C21) 5,843 3.9 9.3 74,414 YES 47.9
5 Cerebrovascular disease (I60–I69) 5,438 3.6 8.6 66,674 YES 16.4
6 Breast cancer (C50) 5,278 3.5 8.4 84,014 YES* 61.2
7 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (J40–J44) 5,045 3.4 8.0 43,672 YES 29.3
8 Cancer, unknown, ill-defined (C26, C39, C76–C80) 4,330 2.9 6.9 52,492 NO 39.0
9 Land transport accidents (V01–V89) 3,804 2.5 6.0 143,227 YES 88.2
10 Pancreatic cancer (C25) 3,739 2.5 5.9 43,541 NO 50.7

* Breast cancer deaths are only classified as potentially avoidable among females.

Notes:  

  1. International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th revision (ICD-10) codes are presented in parentheses.
  2. Per cent is the proportion of all premature deaths that were due to that cause of death.
  3. Rates are age-standardised to the 2001 Australian standard population and expressed as deaths per 100,000 population aged less than 75.
  4. PYLL (potential years of life lost) are expressed as number of person-years.
  5. PAD (potentially avoidable deaths) column indicates whether the cause of death is classified as avoidable (YES) or not avoidable (NO).
  6. Per cent premature is the proportion of all deaths due to that cause of death (all ages) that were premature. Note also that injury and poisoning death data should be interpreted with caution due to the potential for revision (see Source data).
  7. Colours indicate broad cause of death category.
    blue = chronic disease, orange = cancer, purple = injury & poisoning, green = other cause of death.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database (Table S2, 524KB XLS).

Leading cause of death grouping

Leading causes of death are grouped in this report as either chronic disease, cancer, injury and poisoning, or other. Chronic disease includes coronary heart disease (I20–I25), cerebrovascular disease (I60–I69), COPD (J40–J44), liver disease and diabetes (K70–K76). Cancer includes all neoplasms (C00–D48). Injury and poisoning includes all external causes of morbidity and mortality (V01–Y98). Other includes all other causes of death.

Chronic disease

The leading cause of premature mortality in 2010–2012 was coronary heart disease (10% of deaths among people aged less than 75; Table 3.1). Coronary heart disease is also the leading cause of death in Australia overall, accounting for 14% of deaths across all ages in 2010–2012, with almost 1 in 4 (25%) of these deaths being premature. Although coronary heart disease was also the leading cause of premature death in 1997–1999, the death rate has halved since then—from 54 deaths per 100,000 population aged less than 75 to 25 per 100,000 in 2010–2012.

Other chronic disease causes of premature mortality include cerebrovascular disease (e.g. stroke; 3.6%, ranked 5th), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, 3.4%, ranked 7th), liver disease (2.4%, ranked 11th) and diabetes (2.4%, ranked 12th).

Rank Cause
1 Coronary heart disease
see fact sheet and GRIM book.
2 Cerebrovascular disease
see fact sheet and GRIM book.
3 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
see fact sheet and GRIM book.
4 Liver disease
see fact sheet and GRIM book.
5 Diabetes
see fact sheet and GRIM book.

Cancer

Lung cancer (8.9%) was the second leading cause of premature mortality in 2010–2012. More than half (55%) of all deaths due to lung cancer were among people aged less than 75. Although lung cancer deaths may be reduced through population health interventions (e.g. anti-smoking campaigns), there are few options for reducing mortality after the condition has developed. Therefore, deaths from lung cancer are not considered potentially avoidable. Lung cancer was the leading cause of death among females aged less than 75 (9.4%).

Other cancers as causes of premature mortality include colorectal cancer (3.9%, ranked 4th), breast cancer (3.5%, ranked 6th), melanoma (1.7%, ranked 17th) and prostate cancer (1.6%, ranked 18th). Breast cancer was the second leading cause of death among females aged less than 75 (9.2%) and prostate cancer was the 10th leading cause of death among males aged less than 75 (2.6%).

Rank Cause
1 Lung cancer
see fact sheet and GRIM book.
2 Colorectal cancer
see fact sheet and GRIM book.
3 Breast cancer
see fact sheet and GRIM book.
4 Melanoma
see fact sheet and GRIM book.
5 Prostate cancer
see fact sheet and GRIM book.

Injury and poisoning

Suicide (4.5%) was the third leading cause of premature mortality in 2010–2012 and the greatest contributor to PYLLs. Unlike chronic conditions such as coronary heart disease and lung cancer, suicide was a leading cause of death among younger age groups and therefore a greater number of years of life were lost. In 2010–2012, 92% of suicide deaths were among people aged less than 75.

Other causes of premature mortality due to injury and poisoning include land transport accidents (2.5%, ranked 9th) and accidental poisoning (1.9%, ranked 15th). Assault (0.5%, ranked 46th) and accidental drowning (0.3%, ranked 57th) were not leading causes of premature mortality among all people aged less than 75, however they were prominent in the younger age groups—assault the 4th leading cause of death in young people aged 15–24 (3.0%) and accidental drowning and submersion the 3rd leading cause of death among children aged 1–14 (6.6%).

Rank Cause
1 Suicide
see fact sheet and GRIM book.
2 Land transport accidents
see fact sheet and GRIM book.
3 Accidental poisoning
see fact sheet and GRIM book.
4 Assault
see fact sheet and GRIM book.
5 Accidental drowning
see fact sheet and GRIM book.