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The majority of deaths in Australia, like other developed countries, occur among older people. Sixty-six per cent of deaths registered in Australia in 2014 were among people aged 75 or over (58% for males and 73% for females). The median age at death was 78.5 years for males and 84.8 years for females (Table S1).
Source: ABS 2015 (Table S1).
Deaths in early childhood have reduced substantially over the past 100 years. In 1907 deaths in the 0–4 age group accounted for 26% of all deaths compared to less than 1% in 2014.
Child death rates presented here are calculated as the number of deaths among young children (aged 0–4) divided by the population of the same age and expressed as per 100,000 population.
In 2014, there were 78 deaths per 100,000 population—32% lower than a decade earlier (2004) and 97% lower than in 1907 when recording began. The death rate was higher for boys than girls.
The drop in child deaths in Australia mostly reflects a decline in infant deaths, which is linked to:
Source: AIHW GRIM books (Table S2).
Other measures of deaths in early childhood and infancy are also commonly used to describe the health status of a population:
Premature deaths can be summarised in terms of potential years of life lost (PYLLs). This measure considers only deaths that occur before a certain age. For example, if dying before the age of 75 is considered premature then a person dying at age 40 would have lost 35 potential years of life.
Using the age of 75 as the cut-off, there were 880,437 PYLLs in Australia in 2014. This is a little over half the number in 1907 when there were 1,576,383 PYLLs. Expressed another way, in 1907 there were 382 PYLLs per 1,000 population and in 2014 this figure was 40 PYLLs per 1,000 population; a decrease of 89%.
Males are more likely than females to experience premature death however the difference between the sexes is narrowing. In 1974 there were 137 PYLLs per 1,000 males compared to 78 PYLLs per 1,000 females: a difference of 59 PYLL per 1,000. This gap decreased to 35 PYLL in 1994 (76 PYLLs per 1,000 males and 41 PYLLs per 1,000 females) and 19 PYLL in 2014 (50 PYLLs per 1,000 males and 31 PYLLs per 1,000 females).
Source: AIHW GRIM books (Table S3).
PYLLs can be used to estimate the burden of mortality, which is the loss associated with early death. On this basis it is sometimes used as an indicator of the social and economic impact of premature deaths. Burden of disease measures include a component of years of life lost that is weighted according to the remaining life expectancy at that age of death, rather than using the age of 75 as the cut-off.
For more information, see Burden of disease.
Potentially avoidable deaths are deaths among people younger than 75 that are potentially avoidable within the present health care system. They include deaths from conditions that are potentially preventable through individualised care and/or treatable through existing primary or hospital care.
In 2014 there were over 26,000 potentially avoidable deaths: half (50%) of all deaths for people aged less than 75. Of these deaths, 63% were male and 37% were female.
Potentially avoidable death rates fell by 44% between 1997 and 2014 (from 193 to 108 deaths per 100,000 population). Rates fell by 45% among males (from 252 to 139 deaths per 100,000 males) and by 43% among females (from 136 to 78 per 100,000 females).
Source: AIHW National Mortality Database (Table S4).
Potentially avoidable deaths are classified using nationally agreed definitions based on cause of death for people aged less than 75. Historical data may differ from previous reports as the nationally agreed revisions to the definition of potentially avoidable deaths in 2014 have been applied.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2015. Deaths, Australia, 2014. ABS cat. no. 3302.0. Canberra: ABS.
AIHW 2016. National Healthcare Agreement: PI 16-Potentially avoidable deaths, 2016.
AIHW GRIM (General Record of Incidence of Mortality) books.