Provisional Mortality Statistics, March 2021

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

Reference period: January 2020–March 2021 25 June 2021

Cumulatively in 2021 (until 28 March), the total number of doctor-certified deaths (31,363) was higher than the number of cumulative doctor-certified deaths in 2020 (30,900), and higher than the average over 2015–19 (29,752). The weekly number of doctor-certified deaths in March 2021 was higher than in 2020, and above the 2015–19 average. However, age standardised death rates in March were lower than in 2020, and below the 2015–19 average, suggesting that the increase in deaths is driven by a change in the size and age structure of the population.

Weekly deaths

The number of deaths each week from January through to March was generally higher in 2021 than in 2020, and higher than the 2015–19 average. The weekly number of deaths from January through to March was generally higher than maximums observed in previous years from January through to March (Chart 1).

Chart 1: doctor-certified deaths, COVID-19 infections, 2015–19 average compared with 2020 and 2021

Cumulative deaths

In March 2021, the cumulative number of doctor-certified deaths was higher than the number of deaths in 2020, and was above the 2015–19 average.

Compared with the 2015–19 average, there have been slightly more doctor-certified deaths in 2021 for males and females aged over 65 years (an increase of 9.7 and 4.6 per cent respectively) (Chart 2).

Chart 2: cumulative doctor-certified deaths by age and sex, 2015–19 average compared with 2020 and 2021

Cumulative doctor-certified deaths in 2021 were slightly higher in most states and territories when compared with 2020, and the 2015–19 average, but slightly lower in the NT and ACT (Chart 3).

Chart 3: cumulative doctor-certified deaths by state/territory of registration, 2015–19 average compared with 2020 and 2021

Cumulative doctor-certified deaths due to influenza and pneumonia in 2021 were 23 per cent lower compared with the 2015–19 average, while doctor-certified deaths due to dementia in 2021 were 20 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 and 2021

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 early 2021, 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 and 2021

ASDRs for respiratory diseases in 2021 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 and 2021

ASDRs for dementia for 2021 are close to the 2015–19 average (Chart 7). This suggests that some of the increase in cumulative dementia deaths 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 and 2021

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.

Provisional Mortality Statistics is released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics monthly. The Centre for Population prepares notes analysing these releases on a quarterly basis.

Further detail is available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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