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Premature mortality refers to deaths that occur at a younger age than a selected cut-off. For this report it is deaths that occur in people aged younger than 75.
4 in 5 Indigenous deaths (2008–2012) occurred among people under 75
62% of premature deaths were men
35% decrease in the rate of premature deaths between 1997 and 2012
In 2012, there were 49,692 premature deaths in Australia
Table 3.1 presents the leading causes of premature mortality in Australia in 2010–2012.
* Breast cancer deaths are only classified as potentially avoidable among females.
Source: AIHW National Mortality Database (Table S2, 524KB XLS).
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.
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).
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%).
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%).
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