Deaths from cardiovascular disease

All cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) was the underlying cause of death in 41,800 deaths in 2018 (26% of all deaths) according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) National Mortality Database. It was an associated cause of death in 70,600 deaths.

The deaths data in this web page only refer to CVD as the underlying cause of death (that is, the primary or main cause of death).

Where CVD was listed as the underlying cause of death:

  • 42% were due to coronary heart disease (CHD)
  • 20% were due to stroke
  • 10% were due to heart failure and cardiomyopathy (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Major causes of CVD death, 2018

The bar graph shows that coronary heart disease was the most common underlying cause of CVD death for both males and females in 2018. Coronary heart disease was the underlying cause of 10,269 deaths of males and 7,264 deaths of females. Stroke was the second most common underlying cause of CVD death followed by heart failure and cardiomyopathy, and peripheral vascular disease. More females than males had stroke, hypertensive disease and rheumatic heart disease listed as the underlying cause of death.

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Trends over time

Both the number and rate of CVD deaths have declined substantially between 1981 and 2018.

  • The number of CVD deaths declined by 25% (from around 56,000 to 41,800).
  • Age standardised CVD death rates declined by around 75%—falling from 689 to 152 per 100,000 population for males and 440 to 109 per 100,000 for females (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Trends in CVD deaths, by sex, 1981–2018

The line graph shows that the rate of CVD deaths has declined between 1981 and 2018 for both males and females. For males, the rate of CVD deaths declined from 689 to 152 deaths per 100,000 population between 1981 and 2018. For females, the rate of CVD deaths declined from 440 to 109 deaths per 100,000 over the same period.

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Age and sex

In 2018, CVD death rates:

  • were overall 1.4 times as high for males as for females (152 and 109 per 100,000 population, respectively). Age-specific rates for males were higher than females across all age groups.
  • increased with age, with over half (53%) of CVD deaths occurring in persons aged 85 and over. CVD death rates for males and females were highest in the 85 and over age group (4,500 and 4,300 per 100,000, respectively)―4.4 times as high for males and 5.9 times as high for females aged 75–84 (1,000 and 725 per 100,000, respectively) (Figure 3).

Figure 3: CVD deaths, by age group and sex, 2018

The column graph shows that the rate of CVD deaths increased with age, with the highest rate for both males and females in those aged 85 and over (4,509 and 4,303 per 100,000 population, respectively).

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Variations between population groups

After adjusting for age, CVD death rates increased with remoteness and socioeconomic disadvantage. Rates were:

  • 1.4 times as high in Remote and very remote areas compared with Major cities (180 and 128 per 100,000 population, respectively). This difference was similar for males and females.
  • 1.5 times as high in the lowest socioeconomic areas compared with the highest socioeconomic areas (164 and 112 per 100,000, respectively). This difference was higher for males (1.6 times as high) than females (1.4 times as high) (Figure 4).

Figure 4:  CVD deaths, by remoteness and socioeconomic areas, 2016–2018

The bar graph show that the age-standardised rate of CVD deaths increased with remoteness and socioeconomic disadvantage for both males and females. The rate was 1.4 times as high among males living in Remote and Very remote areas compared to those living in Major cities (201 and 150 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively) and 1.3 times as high among females living in Remote and Very remote areas compared to those living in Major cities (146 and 109 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively). The rate of CVD deaths was 1.6 times as high among males living in the most disadvantaged areas compared with the least disadvantaged areas (197 and 126 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively) and 1.4 times as high among females (134 and 98 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively).

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

In 2016–2018, there were around 2,000 deaths from CVD among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, a crude rate of 93 deaths per 100,000 population.

After adjusting for differences in the age structure of the populations, the rate of death from CVD was 1.7 times as high among Indigenous Australians compared with non-Indigenous Australians. The difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians was higher among females (1.8 times higher among Indigenous Australians) than males (1.6 times higher among Indigenous Australians).

Coronary heart disease

In 2018, coronary heart disease (CHD) was the underlying cause in around 17,500 deaths (11% of all deaths and 42% of CVD deaths). Forty two percent of CHD deaths (7,300) resulted from a heart attack, also known as acute myocardial infarction.

Trends over time

The number and rate of CHD deaths have declined substantially between 1981 and 2018.

  • The number of CHD deaths declined by 44% (from around 31,400 to 17,500).
  • CHD death rates declined by around 80%—falling from 412 to 75 per 100,000 population for males and 208 to 38 per 100,000 population for females (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Trends in CHD deaths, 1981–2018

The line graph shows the rate of CHD deaths has declined between 1981 and 2018 for both males and females. For males, the rate of CHD deaths declined from 412 in 1981 to 75 in 2018. For females, the rate of CHD deaths declined from 208 in 1981 to 38 in 2018.

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Age and sex

In 2018, CHD death rates:

  • were twice as high for males as for females (75 and 38 per 100,000 population, respectively).
  • increased with age, with around half of all CHD deaths occurring in persons aged 85 and over. CHD death rates for males and females were highest in the 85 and over age group (2,000 and 1,500 per 100,000, respectively)—4 times as high for males and 6 times as high for females aged 75–84 (486 and 243 per 100,000, respectively) (Figure 6).

Figure 6: CHD deaths, by age group and sex, 2018

The column graph shows that the rate of CHD deaths increased with increasing age, with the highest rate for both males and females in those aged 85 and over (2,049 and 1,506 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively). Among those aged 75-84 years, the rates were substantially lower for both males and females (486 and 243 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively).

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Stroke

In 2018, stroke was the underlying cause in over 8,400 deaths (5% of all deaths and 20% of CVD deaths).

Trends over time

The number and rate of stroke deaths have declined substantially between 1981 and 2018.

  • The number of stroke deaths declined by 30% (from around 12,000 to 8,400).
  • Age-standardised stroke death rates declined by 75%, falling from 102 to 26 deaths per 100,000 population. Stroke death rates declined similarly for males and females (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Trends in stroke deaths, 1981–2018

The line graph shows the rate of stroke deaths per 100,000 people has declined between 1981 and 2018 for both males and females. For males, the rate of CHD deaths declined from 106 to 25 per 100,000 over this time period. For females, the rate of CHD deaths declined from 97 to 26 per 100,000 from 1981 to 2018.

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Age and sex

In 2018, stroke death rates:

  • were similar for males and females, except in the 85 and over age group where rates were higher among females than males.
  • increased with age, with over half (54%) of all stroke deaths occurring in those aged 85 and over. Stroke death rates for males and females were highest in the 85 and over age group (762 and 980 per 100,000 population, respectively)—4 times as high for males and 5 times as high for females aged 75–84 (196 and 187 per 100,000, respectively) (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Stroke deaths, by age group and sex, 2018

The column graph shows that the rate of stroke deaths increased with increasing age, with the highest rate for both males and females in those aged 85 and over (762 and 980 per 100,000 population, respectively). The rate among those aged 75-84 years was substantially lower among both males and females (196 and 187 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively).

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For more information on how deaths are registered, coded and updated, see About deaths data.