Dementia is a progressive condition that leads to reduced life expectancy. However, time from diagnosis to death is highly variable. Survival time is affected by age, sex, dementia type and severity at diagnosis, among other factors (Brodaty et al. 2012). In addition, dementia is not always the direct cause of death as the condition often impairs an individual’s physical health and their ability to cope with other diseases (Dementia Australia 2019).
The mortality statistics presented here are derived from the National Mortality Database and, unless otherwise specified, refer to cases where a death was due to dementia, also known as the ‘underlying cause of death’. The National Mortality Database holds records for deaths in Australia from 1964 and comprises information about causes of death and other characteristics of the person, such as sex, age at death, area of usual residence and Indigenous status. Causes of death were coded using the 10th version of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10), an international standard agreed by the World Health Organization for defining and reporting causes of death. Refer to the Technical notes for further information on death data and the codes used to classify dementia in the National Mortality Database.
Refer to the Mortality data tables for underlying data presented in these pages.
Dementia is a leading cause of death in Australia
In 2020, dementia was the second leading cause of death in Australia after coronary heart disease, and was the leading cause of death for women. There were a total of 14,500 deaths due to dementia, with more women than men dying due to the condition (around 9,100 and 5,300 deaths, respectively). This corresponds to dementia causing 9.6% of all deaths in Australia in 2020 (or 12.6% of all deaths among women and 6.8% of all deaths among men).
Figure 3.1 shows the leading 5 causes of death for Australians in 2020, by age and sex. Dementia becomes an increasingly common cause of death with increasing age, and was the leading cause of death for persons aged 85 and over. For women, it was also the leading cause of death among those aged 75 and over.
Details on the total number of deaths and the age-specific rate of deaths per 100,000 population are displayed when the mouse is hovered over each leading cause of death.
Figure 3.1: Leading causes of death in Australia in 2020, by age and sex