Diabetes deaths

How many deaths are associated with diabetes in Australia?

Diabetes was among the 10 leading causes of death of Australians, contributing to about 17,500 deaths in 2020 (10.8% of all deaths) according to the AIHW National Mortality Database. Diabetes was the underlying cause of death in around 5,100 deaths (29% of diabetes deaths). It was an associated cause of death in a further 12,300 deaths (71% of diabetes deaths).

Diabetes is far more likely to be listed as an associated cause of death than as the underlying cause of death. This is because it is often not diabetes itself that leads directly to death, but one of its complications that will be listed as the underlying cause of death on the death certificate. When diabetes was examined as an associated cause of death, the conditions most commonly listed as the underlying cause of death were cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke.

Where diabetes was listed as the underlying and/or associated cause of death:

  • 3.8% were due to type 1 diabetes (670 deaths).
  • 57% were due to type 2 diabetes (9,900 deaths).
  • 40% were due to other or unspecified diabetes (6,900 deaths).

Note: Examining only the underlying cause of death can underestimate the impact of diabetes on mortality (Harding et al. 2014). Further, deaths from diabetes are known to be under-reported in national mortality statistics, as diabetes is often omitted from death certificates as a cause of death (McEwen et al. 2011; Whittall et al. 1990).

Variation by age and sex

In 2020, mortality rates for diabetes (as the underlying and/or associated cause):

  • increased with increasing age, with rates 2.1 times as high in those aged 85 and over (1,400 and 1,100 per 100,000 population for males and females, respectively) compared with those aged 70–79 (Figure 1)
  • after controlling for age, were 1.7 times as high in males compared with females.

Figure 1: Diabetes death rates, by cause of death type, age and sex, 2020

The chart shows the diabetes death rates by cause of death type, age and sex in 2020. Diabetes death rates (as any cause of death) were highest among males in each age group from 50 and over and increased with increasing age, peaking among those aged 85 and over.

Trends over time      

Mortality rates for diabetes (as the underlying and/or associated cause) have remained relatively stable since 2000. Between 2000 and 2020:

  • Total deaths related to diabetes increased from 8,100 to 10,000 for males and 4,700 to 7,500 for females.
  • Age-standardised diabetes mortality rates were highest in 2008 (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Diabetes death rates by cause of death type and sex, 2000–2020

The chart shows the trend in diabetes death rates, by cause of death type between 2000 and 2020. Diabetes death rates (as any cause of death) peaked overall in 2008 and have gradually declined since then with rates in 2020 slightly below those seen in 2008. Though death rates are around 1.7 times higher among males than females, the trends are similar among the sexes.

Variation between population groups

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

There were 749 deaths from diabetes (as the underlying and/or associated cause) among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 2020, a rate of 81 per 100,000 population. Almost two-thirds (61%) of Indigenous deaths from diabetes occurred in those aged under 70. Among Indigenous Australians, males aged 80–84 had the highest mortality rate across all age groups (2,400 cases per 100,000 population) (Figure 3).

After adjusting for differences in the age structure of the populations, diabetes death rates were 5 times as high among Indigenous Australians as non-Indigenous Australians (Figure 4).

Figure 3: Diabetes death rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, underlying and/or associated cause of death, by age group and sex, 2020

The chart shows the diabetes deaths rates as an underlying and/or associated cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by age group and sex in 2020. Death rates increased with increasing age peaking among males at age 80–84 and females at age 85 and over (2,444 and 2,201 per 100,000 population, respectively). Rates were higher among males than females from age 65–69 to 80–84, were similar among the sexes for those aged below 60 and higher among females from age 85 and over.

Socioeconomic area

In 2020, diabetes death rates (as the underlying and/or associated cause) increased with increasing levels of socioeconomic disadvantage. After adjusting for differences in the age structure of the populations, rates were 2.4 times as high among those living in the lowest socioeconomic areas as those living in the highest socioeconomic areas (Figure 4).  

Remoteness area

In 2020, after adjusting for differences in the age profile of the populations, diabetes death rates (as the underlying and/or associated cause) were 1.8 times as high in Remote and very remote areas as in Major cities (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Diabetes death rates, underlying and/or associated cause of death, by selected population group and sex, 2020

The chart shows the age-standardised diabetes death rates as the underlying and/or associated cause by selected population group and sex in 2020. Overall, diabetes death rates increased with increasing levels of socioeconomic disadvantage being 2.4 times as higher among those living in the most disadvantaged areas as those living in the least disadvantaged areas. Diabetes death rates also increase with the level of remoteness being 1.8 times as high among those living in Remote and very remote areas as Major cities. Indigenous Australians were 5 times as likely to die from diabetes as non-Indigenous Australians.

Diseases commonly associated with diabetes deaths

Associated causes commonly listed with diabetes deaths, include diseases of the urinary system, coronary heart disease and hypertensive diseases (Table 1).

Table 1: Common associated causes where diabetes is the underlying cause of death, 2020
Associated cause of death Per cent
Kidney and urinary disease (N00–N49) 33.0
Coronary heart disease (I20–I25) 32.9
Hypertensive diseases (I10–I15) 31.7
Heart failure (I50–I51) 20.4
Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings (R00-R99) 18.9
Cardiac arrhythmias (I47–I49) 14.1
Cerebrovascular disease (I60–I69) 11.7
Dementia, incl. Alzheimer's disease (F01, F03 and G30) 11.0
Cardiac arrest (I46) 8.4
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (J40–J44) 8.2
Disorders of lipoprotein metabolism and other lipidaemias (E78) 7.8
Sepsis (A40–A41) 7.3
Peripheral arterial disease (I70–I74) 7.1
Influenza, pneumonia (J08–J18) 6.2

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database

References

Harding JL, Shaw JE, Peeters A, Guiver T, Davidson S and Magliano DJ (2014) ‘Mortality trends among people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes in Australia: 1997–2010’, Diabetes Care, 37:2579–586, doi:10.2337/dc14-0096.

McEwen L, Karter A, Curb J, Marrero D, Crosson J and Herman W (2011) ‘Temporal trends in recording of diabetes on death certificates: results from Translating Research into Action for Diabetes (TRIAD)’, Diabetes Care, 34(7):1529–33, doi:10.2337/dc10-2312.

Whittall DE, Glatthaar C, Knuiman MW and Welborn TA (1990) ‘Deaths from diabetes are under-reported in national mortality statistics’, Medical Journal of Australia, 152(11):598–600, doi:10.5694/j.1326-5377.1990.tb125391.x.