Heart attacks down, drug deaths up: snapshot of Australian mortality

Public Health

By Tessa Hoffman

28 Sep 2017

Ischaemic heart disease remains the leading cause of death in Australia, but the number of lives it claims is in decline.

The condition accounted for 12% of Australia’s 158,504 deaths last year – the median age of death was 85 – but the rate per head of population dropped by more than a third in a decade, according to latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The top five causes accounting for a third of all deaths included dementia (up 3% to 8.3 % since 2007) cerebrovascular diseases (6.6%) trachea, bronchus and lung cancer (5.3%) and chronic lower respiratory disease (5.1%).

Suicide was the leading cause of death in 15-44 year olds.

Intentional self-harm accounted for 2,866 deaths, with men three times more likely to take their own lives than women.

Meanwhile, the number of drug overdose deaths climbed to its highest rate in 20 years.

Last year there was 1,808 intentional or accidental drug-induced deaths, while drugs played a role in another 1,387.

The biggest culprits were prescription opioids and benzodiazepines – each class of drugs was present in one in three deaths.

Deaths from psychostimulants including methamphetamines quadrupled since 1999, making them the third most common substances to be associated with drug deaths, while heroin placed fourth.

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