Provisional Mortality Statistics

Centre for Population analysis of the Provisional mortality statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

Reference period: January 2020–December 2020 31 March 2021

The number of doctor-certified deaths in December was above the 2015–19 average. Cumulatively in 2020, the total number of doctor-certified deaths (140,363) was in line with the number of cumulative doctor-certified deaths on average over the previous 5 years (140,471).1 Weekly deaths due to respiratory diseases were lower than the 2015–19 average from late April until beginning of December.

1 Cumulative deaths described in this note are the total counts of deaths from 1 January to 29 December.

Chart 1: Doctor-certified deaths, COVID-19 infections, 2015–19 average compared with 2020

Weekly deaths

The weekly number of deaths from January through to mid-May was higher than the 2015–19 average, and higher than maximums observed in previous years from mid-March through to early May. From mid-May through to the end of October the weekly number of deaths fell below the 2015–19 average. Since the start of November, the weekly number of deaths have exceeded the 2015–19 average (Chart 1).

Cumulative deaths

Cumulatively in 2020, the total number of doctor-certified deaths was in line with the average over the previous 5 years (140,363 compared with 140,471).

Compared with the 2015–19 average, there have been slightly more doctor‑certified deaths in 2020 for males aged over 65 years (an increase of 2.1 per cent) (Chart 2).

Chart 2:Cumulative doctor-certified deaths by age and sex, 2015–19 average compared with 2020

Cumulative doctor certified deaths in 2020 were higher in some states and territories compared with the 2015–19 average (for example, 1.8 per cent higher in Queensland), and lower in others (for example, 8.9 per cent lower in Tasmania) (Chart 3)

Chart 3. Cumulative doctor-certified deaths by state/territory of registration, January-December, 2015–19 average compared with 2020

Cumulative doctor certified deaths due to influenza and pneumonia in 2020 were 36.2 per cent lower compared with the 2015 19 average, while doctor certified deaths due to dementia between in 2020 were 6.9 per cent higher compared with the 2015 19 average (Chart 4).

Chart 4: Cumulative doctor-certified deaths by specified cause of death, 2015–19 average compared with 2020

Note: Chart 4 shows the main causes of doctor-certified deaths, and does not sum to total doctor certified deaths for the period.

Age standardised death rates

Age standardised death rates (ASDRs) allow comparison of mortality trends across populations of different size and age structure. They are expressed as deaths per 100,000 population.

In 2020 ASDRs have been generally lower when compared to the 2015–19 average (Chart 5).

Chart 5: Age standardised death rates, 2015–19 average compared with 2020

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ASDRs for respiratory diseases in 2020 have also been lower than the 2015–19 average (Chart 6). This suggests that the decrease in respiratory related deaths are unrelated to changes in population size and ageing.

Chart 6: Age standardised death rates for respiratory disease, 2015–19 average compared with 2020

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ASDRs for dementia for 2020 are close to the 2015–19 average (Chart 7). This suggests that some of the increase in cumulative dementia deaths in 2020 compared to the 2015 19 average can be explained by an increase in population size, particularly at older ages.

Chart 7: Age standardised death rates for dementia, 2015–19 average compared with 2020

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NOTES:

Provisional data in this release only include doctor-certified deaths, and are therefore not comparable with the annual Deaths and Causes of Death data releases (which also include coroner‑certified deaths). Each year just over 10 per cent of deaths in Australia are certified by a coroner. These include reportable deaths including suicides, drug overdoses and assaults.

Each new Provisional Mortality Statistics release will include those deaths that have been registered and reported to the Australian Bureau of Statistics since the previous release. As some of those deaths will have occurred in time periods covered in previous reports, the counts of deaths for those time periods will change from one report to the next. As a result, the cumulative numbers of deaths for the January-December period will change in future releases.

Further detail is available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.