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Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease were the underlying causes of 36% of all deaths in 2011, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease - Australian Facts: Mortality, shows that cardiovascular disease (including coronary heart disease and stroke), diabetes and chronic kidney disease were together the underlying cause of almost 53,000 deaths in 2011.

'Overall, three out of every five deaths had at least one of these diseases recorded as an underlying or associated cause of death,' said AIHW spokesperson Sushma Mathur. 

In 14% of all death records, two of these diseases were found and in 2% all three diseases were present.

Cardiovascular disease was the underlying cause of 31% of all deaths, making it the most common cause of death in Australia.

Diabetes was the underlying cause of 3% of all deaths and most of these deaths were caused by type 2 diabetes. Chronic kidney disease was the underlying cause of a further 2% of deaths.

'Both diabetes and chronic kidney disease are more often associated with other underlying causes of death such as coronary heart disease, hypertensive disease or other cardiovascular disease. In 2011, diabetes and chronic kidney disease were each listed on 10% of all death certificates,' Ms Mathur said.

'These diseases are often caused by or are a complication of one or both of the other diseases.'

Since 1981, cardiovascular disease death rates have fallen substantially, by 71% for men (from 689 to 202 deaths per 100,000 people) and by 67% for women (from 440 to 145).

'Death rates for diabetes and chronic kidney disease during this time remained relatively unchanged,' Ms Mathur said.

Although anyone can be affected by these diseases, men, older people, people of low socio-economic status and people living in remote and very remote areas have higher death rates from these diseases.

Further, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a higher burden from these diseases than other Australians, with Indigenous diabetes death rates (58 per 100,000 people) and chronic kidney disease death rates (35 per 100,000 people) three times those of non-Indigenous Australians.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 24 October 2014

Further information: Ms Sushma Mathur, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1067, mob. 0418 271 395

Full publication: Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease - Australian Facts: Mortality