Heart disease has been Australia’s leading cause of death since the early part of the 20th century, but that could be set to change as dementia death rates continue to rise, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
There were 159,052 deaths in Australia, with the infant mortality rate at a record low (3.2 deaths per 1,000 live births) and the standardised death rate remaining low at 5.5 deaths per 1,000 people.
James Eynstone-Hinkins, ABS Director of Health and Vital Statistics, said that over time the decline in mortality rates and increases in life expectancy are contributing to the ageing of Australia’s population.
“Population projections indicate that the number of people aged 80 and over will double in the next 20 years. Understanding and managing diseases of the elderly is critical as people live longer lives,” said Mr Eynstone-Hinkins.
“Death rates from dementia have continued to increase, while those from heart disease and stroke have steadily declined,” he said. ”If these trends continue we can expect to see dementia become our leading cause of death within the next few years.”
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both males and females, with dementia, strokes, lung cancer and chronic respiratory conditions all in the top five.
Diabetes is Australia’s sixth leading cause of death, accounting for 2.9% of all deaths in 2015. There are more than a million Australians living with diabetes, and it was considered to be a contributory factor in more than 10% of deaths in 2015.
Cancers accounted for almost 30 per cent of Australian deaths in 2015. Lung cancer accounts for the most cancer deaths, making it the second leading cause of death for males and fourth leading cause overall.
Suicide is the leading cause of death among people 15-44 years of age and remains the leading cause of premature mortality in Australia. In 2015, suicide deaths occurred at a rate of 12.6 deaths per 100,000 people, a further increase on that recorded in 2014.
Comprehensive data and analysis can be found in Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0) and Deaths, Australia (cat. no. 3302.0), available for free download from the ABS website – http://www.abs.gov.au.