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The way Australians are living and their causes of death have changed considerably throughout the years. To understand our mortality rates and changes to our lifestyles, it is essential to note the leading causes of death in Australia and how to reduce death rates.

Leading Cause of Death

The World Health Organization has noted that the leading causes of death in high-income countries, such as Australia, in 2020 were:

  1. Ischaemic Heart Disease
  2. Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias
  3. Stroke
  4. Trachea, Bronchus, and Lung Cancers
  5. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  6. Lower respiratory infections
  7. Colon and Rectum Cancers
  8. Kidney Diseases
  9. Hypertensive Heart Disease
  10. Diabetes Mellitus


Ischaemic Heart Disease and Stroke numbers have lowered between 2000 and 2019. However, 2.9 million fatalities were caused by both in 2019.

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have overtaken stroke as the second highest cause of fatality within Australia and caused the death of 814,000 people in 2019. Globally 65% of Alzheimer-related deaths were women.

Overall, causes of death have changed dramatically globally over the last two decades. Deaths from HIV/Aids have been reduced by 51% globally, and Kidney disease has risen from the world’s 13th leading cause of death to the 10th.

Mortality had increased overall from 813,000 in 2000 to 1.3 million in 2019.


Intentional Self Harm

As of 2016, the World Health Organization recorded that 800,000 people died of suicide worldwide. Suicide affects people of all ages, and the highest proportion of deaths by suicide is among young and middle-aged people.

The stresses of the Coronavirus have also placed further strain on mental health and the support systems available. Suicide was the leading cause of death in people ages 15-44 in 2016-2018 and accounted for roughly eight deaths a day.

More than three-quarters of people whose cause of death was suicide were male in 2018 (AIHW,2021).

Suicide rates in Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people

Age-standardised rates of indigenous suicide have increased over time. The rate of indigenous people whose cause of death was suicide was double that of non-indigenous Australian’s from 2014-2018 (AIHW,2021).


Where can I get help?

Mental Health is more important now than ever.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, then you can reach out to the following resources:

First Aid Pro also offers courses in Mental Health First AidYouth Mental First Aid, and Mental Health First Aid Refreshers.

These accredited courses will help you learn how to recognise and respond to signs of distress, including where to go for professional help and what treatments are available.

If you want to know how to help a colleague or loved one recognise and overcome the disabling distress of common mental health conditions, Mental Health First Aid is for you. This course benefits people who manage staff members and people working in governmentsocial services, and health-related fields. For managers, this course will help you recognise the signs of depression and anxiety in your staff so you can help them before their condition worsens.

Related Resources:

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