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What are the leading causes of death in Australia?


Published August 2019

Death continues to be largely taboo topic despite it happening to us all.

While most of us don’t know how or when we’ll die, information on the leading causes of death in Australia can help us reflect on our own health and lifestyle choices, and what we can do to protect ourselves.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found in 2016 that 13 per cent of men died from coronary heart disease – the leading cause of death. This disease was the second leading cause of death for women; the first being dementia and Alzheimer’s disease at 11 per cent. Cerebrovascular disease (including stroke), lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – comprise the top five underlying causes of death in Australia for men and women of all ages combined.

The top 10 causes of death for men and women in 2016

The top 10 causes of death for men and women in 2016

 

Men

Women

1

Coronary heart disease

Dementia and Alzheimer disease

2

Lung cancer

Coronary heart disease

3

Dementia and Alzheimer disease

Cerebrovascular disease

4

Cerebrovascular disease

Lung cancer

5

COPD

COPD

6

Prostate cancer

Breast cancer

7

Diabetes

Diabetes

8

Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer

9

Suicide

Influenza and pneumonia

10

Cancer of unknown primary site

Heart failure

 

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia’s Health 2018 Report

Heart disease is the most common cause of death

According to the National Heart Foundation of Australia, 18,590 Australians died from heart disease in 2017 (this is one every 28 minutes). It’s also a contributing factor to other causes of death such as strokes. 

Heart Foundation general manager of heart health and research Bill Stravreski says: “There is a big gap in the awareness of heart disease among the Australian community. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and the second-leading cause among women.”

Their research shows that less than 5 per cent of people are aware high blood pressure and cholesterol are the two biggest risk factors contributing to heart disease. Straveski says that half of heart disease sufferers have one of these risk factors, while a third have both.

“These risk factors are bigger than alcohol, stress and lack of physical activity but it’s those factors that people are more focused on.”

Causes of death in Australia for men and women

The leading causes of death have changed over the past century as Australians are living longer. According to AIHW the rate of deaths between 1950 and 2000 decreased due to the control of infectious diseases, better hygiene and nutrition, and improvements in road safety. However, circulatory heart disease has remained a leading cause of death for Australians for both men and women over the past century. 

During this period there has been a considerable reduction in the death rates for stomach and cervical cancers. As Australians become more educated about their health they are eating better and exercising more, plus taking preventative measures such as regular skin checks, mammograms and pap smears, and this has contributed to the improved survival rates from cancer. Thirty years ago about five in 10 people survived for at least five years after their cancer diagnosis; more recent figures are closer to seven in 10.

Falls are the most common accidental death

We don’t all die from diseases. Accidental deaths are also common and can be particularly traumatic as loved ones often have no warning. The leading cause of accidental death in 2016 was falls, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, when there were 2666 deaths as a result. Traffic accidents, accidental poisoning and drowning are also high on the list of accidental causes of death.

ANZ’s research report, The Impact of Death on Parents and Children, found 40 per cent of the families surveyed had no warning prior to the death of their parent/spouse, and 64 per cent had less than a week’s noticedisclaimer. Should the unexpected happen to you, life insurance can help ease the financial pressure on your family and provide for them when you’re not there. 

In 2017 the top three causes for life insurance claims made to OnePath Life – the issuer of ANZ Life Insurance – were cancer at 32.4 per cent, 19.2 per cent for injury/accidents and cardiovascular conditions at 18.1 per cent.

Protecting yourself with life insurance

Life insurance provides beneficiaries with a lump-sum payment if you die, or an early payment if you’re diagnosed as being terminally ill. How much cover you need comes down to your own personal circumstances, number of dependants you may have and what life stage you’re at.

OnePath Head of Life Insurance Gerard Kerr says life insurance is probably the simplest type of insurance to have and it’s best to have at least something in place.  He adds the main issue around life insurance is that it’s something people tend to put off.  “It’s just the way we’re programmed,” he says. “This is why when you do start considering it, it’s important to follow through and get it in place because it gives you a level of security.”

Another insurance that you may want to consider is critical illness – or trauma – insurance. This provides cover for serious medical issues such as cancer, a heart attack, stroke or severe injury. While people tend to focus on the worst-case scenario of death when taking out insurance, these conditions are life-altering and if you aren’t adequately protected financially can cause a lot of stress.

Make sure you have enough insurance protection

When it comes to life insurance Kerr says people can make assumptions about their current level of cover that can be devastating should they ever need to claim. “Many assume they have life insurance in their super or that their employer has set something up,” he says. “Often they have no idea how much cover they actually have or what the policy terms are.”

He says a traditional rule of thumb is 10 times your income. “It might sound like a lot, say if you’re on $100,000 as that equates to $1million but if you have a young child that amount of cover can run out by the time they’re a teenager.”

Find out more about ANZ life insurance

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This information is current as at date of publication and is subject to change.

The issuer of this information is ANZ. While ANZ has taken care to ensure that this information is from reliable sources, it cannot warrant its accuracy, completeness or suitability for your intended use. To the extent permitted by law, ANZ does not accept any responsibility or liability arising from your use of this information.

ANZ Life Insurance is issued by OnePath Life Limited (OnePath Life) (ABN 33 009 657 176, AFSL 238 341). We recommend that you read the ANZ Financial Services Guide (PDF 479kB)ANZ Life Insurance Product Disclosure Statement and Policy Document (PDF 145kB) (available online or by calling 13 16 14) before deciding whether to acquire, or to continue to hold, this product. This PDS relates to policies issued from 1 June 2019. Previous products (with the same name) may have different features and benefits. If you hold insurance based on an earlier PDS, please contact us if you have any questions or to have a PDS sent to you.

ANZ Recover Well is issued by OnePath Life Limited (OnePath Life) (ABN 33 009 657 176, AFSL 238 341). We recommend that you read the ANZ Financial Services Guide (PDF 479kB) and ANZ Recover Well Product Disclosure Statement and Policy Document (PDF 132kB) (available online or by calling 13 16 14) before deciding whether to  acquire, or continue to hold, this product. This PDS relates to policies issued from 1 June 2019. Previous products (with the same name) may have different features and benefits. If you hold insurance based on an earlier PDS, please contact us if you have any questions or to have a PDS sent to you.

This information is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account of your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether the information is appropriate for you having regard to your objectives, financial situation or needs. We recommend that you read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) or offer document and Investor Directed Portfolio Service Guide (Guide), plus any updates, available by calling 1800 932 019 before deciding whether to acquire or hold the product.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) ABN 11 005 357 522 is an authorised deposit taking institution (Bank) under the Banking Act 1959 (Cth). The issuers of the products described above are not Banks. Except as described in the relevant PDS, ANZ does not stand behind or guarantee the issuers or their products.

ANZ Wealth Report “Impact of Death on Parent and Children” 2015. Qualitative research conducted by Ipsos on behalf of ANZ in April and May 2015.

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