Common Causes of Death in Australia

Mortality is always a hard topic to discuss. Whether we like it or not, death is something that we all have to face, and although it’s a subject many of us try to avoid, it’s something we all should be planning for.

To paint a clear picture of death in Australia, we have rounded up the most recent Australian statistics from across the internet. By compiling this data together, we can get a better understanding of the risks we face in life and learn about how we are most likely to pass away.

This information should also prove to be a great resource for anyone looking to the future and hoping to plan out their life insurance policy to protect their family after they pass away.


Putting Death into Perspective

Before we get started on the topic of death, let’s look at something a bit more positive – how long we are expected to live.

According to 2013 statistics from The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), life expectancy has continued to improve over the past ten years.

In 2013 the median age of death was:

  • 78.4 years – Male
  • 84.6 years – Female

The life expectancy is expected to improve even further for future generations.

A person born between 2011 and 2013 is expected to live:

  • 80.1 years – Male
  • 84.3 years – Female

Total Deaths in Australia

The most recent ABS statistics from 2014 show that in Australia there were 153,580 total deaths.

  • 78,341 deaths were male
  • 75,239 deaths were female

Common Causes of Death

When understanding the causes of death in Australia, we first have to look at the leading causes of death. This paints a pretty clear picture of how Australians are most likely to pass away.

According to 2014 ABS statistics, the leading causes of death in Australia attributing to 1/3 of total deaths are:

causes of death table

It's also very common for people to have multiple causes of death. In 2014, there was an average of 3.3 causes contributing to death and 61.3% of deaths reported having three or more causes.


Death by Age

Although heart disease is the leading cause of death for the Australian population as a whole, the most common causes of death vary significantly depending on age.

The leading cause of death for the 15 to 44 age group is:

  • Intentional self-harm (suicide)
  • Accidental poisonings such as drug overdoses
  • Land transport accidents

45 to 74 year-olds are more likely to die from:

  • Heart diseases
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases

Anyone who is 75 and over is most likely to die from:

  • Heart diseases
  • Dementia including Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cerebrovascular diseases

Cardiovascular Disease

The Heart Foundation shows that in 2013, 43,603 deaths were attributed to cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes heart diseases, strokes and blood vessel diseases. CVD made up 30% of deaths in 2013 and one in six people are affected by this disease across Australia.

The leading cause of death from cardiovascular disease is heart attack. 54,000 Australians suffer a heart attack every year resulting in 8,611 deaths in 2013.

The threat of heart disease will not be going away anytime soon and is predicted to continue being a leading cause of death in Australia.


Cancer Deaths

According to Cancer Australia, in 2012, 43,039 deaths were caused by cancer in our country with a projection of 46,570 deaths in 2015. This means that cancer has recently overtaken cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death in Australia.

Cancer has resulted in 212 deaths per 100,000 people for males and 134 deaths per 100,000 for females in 2014.

AIHW statistics show that 123,920 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in Australia in 2014. Cancer also contributed to 16% - 19% of total deaths in Australia.

The most common cancer deaths for men in 2014 were:

  • Lung – 5,150
  • Prostate – 3,390
  • Colorectal – 2,210
  • Pancreas – 1,360

The most common cancer deaths for women in 2014 were:

  • Lung – 3,480
  • Breast – 3,000
  • Colorectal – 1,910
  • Pancreas – 1,280

Thanks to increased awareness and improved treatment options, the mortality rate due to cancer has declined over recent years. Cancer Australia shows that there is now a 67% survival rate for cancer and it’s hoped that continued cancer research will further improve the survival rate in the future.


Suicide Deaths

Suicide is, unfortunately, an increasing problem in Australia. Statistics from Fact Check have revealed that seven Australians commit suicide every day.

Recent ABS statistics show that 2,522 people committed suicide in 2013 compared to 2,098 in 2004. Therefore the suicide rate has increased by 20% over the last 10 years. This figure could even be higher than reported according to a 2010 senate inquiry, due to uncertainty surrounding coronial inquests resulting in suicides being under-reported.

The suicide rate is higher than the rate of road deaths and unlike road fatalities and homicide, the number of people taking their lives continues to increase.


Road Deaths

According to Australian Government Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development statistics, 1,156 road users died on the roads in 2014.

The number of fatalities on the road in Australia consists of:

  • 535 drivers
  • 229 passengers
  • 152 pedestrians
  • 192 motorcyclists
  • 45 pedal cyclists

The age group with the highest death toll is 40 to 64 with 362 deaths followed by 252 deaths in the 26 to 39 age group.

When dividing these statistics by gender, males are far more likely to be killed on the road than females with 824 men and 331 women passing away on our roads in 2014.

In more positive news, the annual road toll rate has declined by 39% over the last decade and is currently at the lowest rate on record. Therefore, the chance of being killed on the road is dropping thanks to enhanced safety features in cars and the enforcement of road rules.


Homicide Deaths

Australia has a low homicide rate compared to the rest of the world. The Homicide in Australia 2010 – 2012 report shows there have been 243 incidents of murder recorded between 2011 and 2012. Among the 243 incidents, 511 people were killed.

Here are some more insightful statistics about homicide in our country:

  • 39% of homicides were classed as domestic
  • 36% of homicides were carried out by acquaintances
  • 58% of these deaths were caused by the intimate partner in domestic cases
  • 70% of these murders took place at residential properties

The three highest causes of death by homicide include:

  • Stab wounds – 187 deaths
  • Beatings – 125 deaths
  • Gunshot wounds – 69 deaths

30% of the victims were aged between 35 and 49 and 21% were 25 to 34 years of age. 85% of the offenders in all homicide cases were male.

On a more positive note, the homicide rate continues to decline in this country with Australia currently seeing the lowest murder rate since records began.


Alcohol Deaths

There is a continuing drinking culture problem in this country that has ultimately lead to a high number of alcohol-related deaths.

The Alcohol’s Burden of Disease in Australia Report by VicHealth shows that there were 5,554 alcohol-related deaths in Australia in 2010.

According to these statistics, the conditions resulting from long-term and excessive consumption of alcohol ultimately leading to death include:

  • Cancers
  • Digestive diseases
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Infections and parasitic diseases
  • Injuries
  • Neuropsychiatric diseases

Cancer and cardiovascular diseases are considered to be the leading result of alcohol deaths. For more information on alcohol-related deaths, take a look at this article from ent wellbeing providing an informative summary and infographic on the topic.


Death by Drowning

There’s no doubt that Australians and tourists alike love taking advantage of our beautiful beaches and waterways during summer. Whether it be the ocean, river, lake or a pool, it’s important to stay safe as there is a risk of drowning in any body of water, especially if a person doesn’t know how to swim.

A report conducted by Royal Life Saving in 2014 has shown that there have been 735 drowning deaths over a 10 year period between 2002 and 2012. The highest instances of drowning were in rivers.

The state with the highest rate of drownings is New South Wales with 246 deaths, followed by Queensland with 219 deaths over this period. Alcohol was also involved in 37% of these cases.


Potentially Avoidable Deaths

Data shows that many deaths in Australia could have been avoided if appropriate preventative measures and treatment options were taken.

ABS statistics show that there were 26,283 preventable or treatable deaths in 2014.

The major examples that fall into this category include particular types of cancers, infections and intentional injuries, just to name a few.

This is why it’s important to keep up with your regular health checks, lead a healthy lifestyle and minimise taking part in dangerous activities where there is a risk of death.


External Causes of Death

The ABS shows that 9,136 Australians died of external causes in 2013.

The three leading causes of external death are:

  • Accidental deaths - 5,867
  • Intentional self-harm - 2,522
  • Assault deaths - 216

The top three ways death occurred in this category are:

  • Falls - 2,055
  • Poisoning - 1,724
  • Hanging - 1,608

Deaths Around the Home

We all consider our home to be a safe haven, but accidents can happen in our very own home that can lead to death. This article from provides an excellent summary of common threats to your life that you’re likely to encounter in your home.

This article and further ABS statistics show that in 2011:

  • 715 people died from slipping, tripping and tumbling
  • 58 people died from falling out of bed
  • 26 died after falling off a chair
  • 34 died falling from a ladder
  • 59 died from choking on food

Other Causes of Death

Some other causes of death worth pointing out from 2011 ABS statistics include:

  • 99 people died in water transport accidents
  • 26 people died after being struck by thrown, projected or falling objects
  • 27 people died from being caught, crushed, jammed or pinched between objects
  • 81 deaths from exposure to smoke, fire and flames
  • 26 people died from flood waters

Life Insurance to Cover Your Family after Death

When considering all of these statistics, it makes you realise how truly fragile life is and how your death could impact on your friends and family. Although we can’t control how and when we will pass away, we can be prepared when the time comes by ensuring we have life insurance in place.

Contemplating death is a little too existentially morbid for most of us on a day-to-day basis. However, giving some thought to the financial situation of your loved ones if and when you do die can ensure that they are not left with significant debts or are unable to continue to support their standard of living. At a time when your family will be overcome by grief, life insurance can provide financial stability to help your family manage. Knowing that your family will be provided for in the event of your death is a way to give yourself peace of mind in the present.

Many Australians may not realise that most life insurance policies cover the most common causes of death, so there is really no excuse not to protect your family by taking out a life insurance policy. Stay a few steps ahead and prepare for your eventual death by visiting Cover Australia to get a quote on a life insurance policy.

Get A Quote

If you would like a quote from one of our expert advisers, please provide your dtails below.

Thank you for your submission, we will contact you shortly with some options to consider