Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014 Australiaâ€™s health 2014.
Australiaâ€™s health series no. 14. Cat. no. AUS 178. Canberra: AIHW.
3.2 Leading causes of death
Examining leading causes of death can help us to understand health in different populations and
population groups. Exploring changes over time can help us to evaluate the effects of health policies,
interventions, and new treatments.
Changes in the pattern of causes of death may also reflect changes in behaviours, exposures, and
social and environmental circumstances.
About deaths data
Causes of death are documented on death certificates completed by medical practitioners or
coroners, and coded using the World Health Organization (WHO) International Statistical Classification
of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The ICD allows for the categorisation of causes of death into disease groups in a way that is
meaningful for public health purposes. The AIHW uses the disease groups recommended by WHO
(Becker et al. 2006) with minor modifications to suit the Australian context.
â€˜Leading causes of deathâ€™ analyses are based solely on what is called the underlying cause of death,
which, broadly, is the disease or injury that initiated the train of events leading to death. Most deaths,
however, are the result of more than one contributing disease or condition (see Chapter 3 â€˜Multiple
causes of death in Australiaâ€™).
What are the leading underlying causes of death in Australia?
â€¢ There were 146,932 deaths in Australia in 2011.
â€¢ The leading underlying cause of death was coronary heart disease, accounting for 11,733 male
deaths and 9,780 female deaths (Figure 3.2).
â€¢ For males the next most common causes of death were lung cancer (4,959 deaths) and
cerebrovascular diseases (which include stroke) (4,427 deaths).
â€¢ For females the next most common causes of death were cerebrovascular diseases (6,824 deaths),
and dementia and