Leading Causes of Death in Australia

dead body with toe-tag illustration
Coronary heart disease has been the leading cause of all deaths in Australia for more than 50 years. In 1968, it was responsible for almost one-third of all deaths, but has been declining since.

The way Australians are living and dying has changed considerably over recent decades.

Awareness of these changing patterns allows for a better understanding of the population’s health and for improved consideration of individual health and lifestyle choices.

How many Australians die each year?

  • In 2019 there were 169,301 registered deaths in Australia, an increase of 6.8% (10,808) from 2018.
  • 52.2% of deaths were male (88,346) and 47.8% were female (80,955).
Deaths in Australian demographics - male, female and age group distribution
Deaths in Australian demographics - male, female and age group distribution

What are the leading causes of death in Australia?

In 2019:

  • The leading cause of death was coronary heart disease accounting for 10.8% of all deaths (18,244). Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, was the 2nd leading cause of death accounting for 8.9% of all deaths (15,016).
  • Cerebrovascular diseases, such as stroke, were the 3rd leading cause of all deaths accounting for 5.8% (9,891 deaths).
  • Cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung was the 4th leading cause of all deaths accounting for 5.2% (8,821 deaths).
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, emphysema and asthma rounded out the top five leading causes accounting for 4.9% of all deaths (8,372).
  • Influenza and pneumonia were the 9th leading cause of all deaths (4,124) in 2019, a 33% increase from 2018.
  • Suicide was the 13th leading cause of death, with the lowest median age at death at 43.9.
Leading causes of death in Australia
Leading causes of death in Australia

Changes in standardised death rate (SDR)

From 2010 to 2019 the standardised death rate (SDR) for:

  • coronary heart disease decreased by 34.6%
  • dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease increased by 27.2%
  • cerebrovascular diseases, such as stroke decreased by 31.5%
  • cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung decreased by 15.8%
  • chronic lower respiratory diseases increased by 5.3%
  • suicides increased by 15.2%
Coronary heart disease death rate in Australia -decrease
Coronary heart disease death rate in Australia

Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease has been the leading cause of all deaths for over half a century. It reached its peak in 1968 when it was responsible for almost one-third of all deaths, and has been declining since.

Related resources

Sources

  • ABS: Causes of Death, Australia (release: 2020)
  • ABS: Changing Patterns of Mortality in Australia, 1968-2017
  • AIHW: Deaths in Australia (release: 2021)
  • ABS: Deaths, Australia (release: 2020)

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