Age at death

In 2022, there were 190,939 deaths registered in Australia (99,924 males; 91,015 females). Most deaths in Australia, like other developed countries, occur among older people (Figure 2.1). Sixty-eight per cent of deaths registered in Australia in 2022 were among people aged 75 or over (63% for males and 74% for females). The median age at death was 80 years for males and 85 years for females (Table S2.1).

Figure 2.1: Deaths in Australia by sex and age group, 2022

The butterfly bar plot shows the number of deaths increased with increasing age. There were more deaths in males before the age of 85.

Child deaths

Deaths in early childhood have reduced substantially over the past 100 years. In 1907, child deaths (aged 0–4 years) accounted for 26% of all deaths compared to 0.6% in 2022.

Child death rates presented here are calculated as the number of deaths among young children (aged 0–4) divided by the population of the same age and expressed per 100,000 population.

In 2022, there were 75 child deaths per 100,000 population – 8.4% lower than a decade earlier (2012) and 97% lower than in 1907 when recording began (Figure 2.2). The death rate in 2022 was higher for boys than girls (78 and 73 deaths per 100,000 population respectively).

The drop in child deaths in Australia mostly reflects a decline in infant deaths (aged less than 1), which is linked to:

  • improved access to and quality of neonatal health care
  • increased community awareness of risk factors for infant and child deaths
  • improved sanitation and hygiene
  • reductions in vaccine-preventable diseases through universal immunisation programs.

Figure 2.2: Child (aged 0–4) death rates in Australia by sex, 1907–2022

The line graph shows that the rate of deaths for male and female children aged 0–4 has declined between 1907 and 2022. The gap between child death rates for males and females has narrowed over time.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database; Table S2.2.

Other measures of deaths in early childhood and infancy are also commonly used to describe the health status of a population:

  • Infant mortality rate is defined as the number of deaths of infants (aged less than 1) divided by the number of live births (and usually expressed per 1,000 live births). For more information on infant deaths, see Australia's children.
  • Perinatal deaths are deaths of babies who die before birth (stillbirth or fetal death) or within the first 28 days of life (neonatal deaths). For more information on perinatal deaths, see Mothers and babies.
  • Under-five death rates are defined as the number of child (aged 0–4) deaths divided by the number of live births, expressed per 1,000 live births. For more information on under-five deaths, see World Health Organization.

Potentially avoidable deaths

Potentially avoidable deaths are deaths among people younger than 75 that are potentially avoidable within the present health care system. They include deaths from conditions that are potentially preventable through individualised care and/or treatable through existing primary or hospital care.

In 2022, there were 28,509 potentially avoidable deaths accounting for almost half (47%) of all deaths for people aged less than 75. Of these deaths, 63% were male and 37% were female.

Potentially avoidable age-standardised death rates fell by 36% between 2002 and 2022 (Figure 2.3).

Figure 2.3: Age-standardised death rates of potentially avoidable deaths in Australia, 1997–2022

The line graph shows that the age-standardised death rate of potentially avoidable deaths among people aged less than 75 decreased from 1998 to 2022.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database; Table S2.3.

Potentially avoidable deaths are classified using nationally agreed definitions based on cause of death for people aged less than 75. Historical data may differ from previous reports as the nationally agreed definition of potentially avoidable deaths in 2022 has been applied.

Data on potentially avoidable deaths by small geographical areas are available as an indicator within the Australia's health performance framework and the AIHW Mortality Over Regions and Time (MORT) books.

Potential years of life lost

Premature deaths can be summarised in terms of potential years of life lost (PYLLs). This measure considers only deaths that occur before a specified arbitrary age. For example, if dying before the age of 75 is considered premature then a person dying at age 40 would have lost 35 potential years of life.

Using the age of 75 as the cut-off, there were 944,509 PYLLs in Australia in 2022. There was a 90% decline in the number of PYLLS per 1,000 population between 1907 and 2022 (from 382 to 39 PYLLs per 1,000).

Males are more likely than females to experience premature death, however, the difference between the sexes is narrowing (Figure 2.4).

  • In 1980, there were 109 PYLLs per 1,000 males and 58 PYLLs per 1,000 females; a difference of 51 PYLL per 1,000.
  • In 2022, the difference reduced to 19 PYLL per 1,000 (49 PYLLs per 1,000 males and 30 PYLLs per 1,000 females).

Figure 2.4: Potential years of life lost in Australia by sex, 1907–2022

The line graph shows that the potential years of life lost in Australia has decreased between 1907 and 2022 for both males and females.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database; Table S2.4.

PYLLs can be used to estimate the burden of mortality, which is the loss associated with early death. On this basis it is sometimes used as an indicator of the social and economic impact of premature deaths. Burden of disease measures include a component of years of life lost that is weighted according to the remaining life expectancy at the age of death, rather than using the age of 75 as the cut-off.

For more information, see Burden of disease.