Do causes of death differ for males and females?

The 20 most common causes involved in male and female deaths in 2022 by cause type (underlying, direct, contributory, multiple) is shown in Figure 5.1.

Figure 5.1: Most common causes of death by sex and cause type, 2022

For multiple causes of death, males and females had similar common causes, although with different proportions involved in death. The 3 most common direct causes of death were the same between males and females. Respiratory, cardiovascular, and other ill-defined causes were also common direct for both males and females. Substance use disorders and diabetes were more common contributory causes for males, with musculoskeletal conditions and dementia more common for females.


  1. Deaths registered in 2022 are based on the preliminary version and are subject to further revision by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  2. Each death can involve one or more multiple, direct, or contributory cause. As a result, the total percentage by a cause type can be greater than 100.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database; Table S5.1.

Most common (multiple) causes

While the 20 most common causes involved in deaths in Australia in 2022 (using multiple causes) were similar for males and females, their rankings and proportions differed. For example, coronary heart disease (CHD) was the cause most commonly involved in deaths for males (in 24% of male deaths) and the second most common for females (16%). Dementia was the most common cause involved in female deaths (in 23% of deaths) and the second most common for males (14%). Diabetes was the third most common cause involved in male deaths (in 12%), while hypertension was the third most common cause involved in female deaths (14%).

Underlying causes

The 6 leading underlying causes of death were the same for males and females, and included: coronary heart disease, dementia, cerebrovascular diseases, COVID-19, lung cancer and COPD. However, dementia was responsible for almost twice as many deaths among females as among males and was the underlying cause in 12% and 7% of female and male deaths, respectively.

Only 4 of the 20 leading underlying causes differed between the sexes. For males these were prostate cancer, suicide, Parkinson disease and liver cancer. Common causes responsible for deaths in females, not common in male deaths, were breast cancer, atrial fibrillation, non-rheumatic valvular disease and (specified) heart failure.

Direct causes

The most common direct causes were largely the same for males and females. The direct involvement of hypertension was proportionally higher in female deaths (4.7%) compared with male deaths (3.4%). The pattern was similar for frailty: it was directly involved in 1.9% of male compared with 3.5% of female deaths. The only difference in the specific leading direct causes were that COPD was a leading direct cause in 1.7% of male deaths and senility in 2.2% of female deaths.

Contributory causes

Substance use disorders commonly contributed to male deaths

Musculoskeletal conditions commonly contributed to female deaths

Chronic diseases and risk factor-related conditions contributed frequently to both male and female deaths. The 6 most common contributors were the same for males and females, with differing levels of contribution. 

The 4 leading contributors to male deaths were diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease. For females these were hypertension, dementia, diabetes and atrial fibrillation.

Diabetes caused approximately equal proportions of male and female deaths as the underlying cause (2.7% and 2.4% of deaths, respectively). However, it contributed disproportionally: to 8.2% of male and 6.5% of female deaths. 

Alcohol, drug use and tobacco use disorders and peripheral vascular disease were among the most common causes contributing to death for males but not females.

Osteoporosis, frailty, osteoarthritis, and asthma were among the most common causes contributing to death for females but not males.