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Latest release

Causes of Death, Australia methodology

Reference period
2018
Released
25/09/2019
Next release Unknown
First release

Explanatory notes

Introduction

1 This publication contains statistics on causes of death for Australia, together with selected statistics on perinatal deaths.

2 Statistics on perinatal deaths for the 2007-2009 reference years were published separately in Perinatal Deaths, Australia, 2009 (cat. no. 3304.0).

3 In order to complete a death registration, the death must be certified by either a doctor using the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, or by a coroner. In 2018, 88.1% of deaths were certified by a doctor. The remaining 11.9% were certified by a coroner.

4 In order to complete a perinatal death registration, the death must be certified by either a doctor, using the Medical Certificate of Cause of Perinatal Death, or by a coroner. In 2018, 97.4% of perinatal deaths were certified by a doctor, with the remaining 2.6% certified by a coroner.

5 Although there is variation across jurisdictions in what constitutes a death that is reportable to a coroner, they are generally reported in circumstances such as:

  • where the person died unexpectedly and the cause of death is unknown
  • where the person died in a violent or unnatural manner
  • where the person died during, or as a result of an anaesthetic
  • where the person was 'held in care' or in custody immediately before they died
  • where the identity of the person who has died is unknown.
     

6 The registration of deaths is the responsibility of the eight individual state and territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages. As part of the registration process, information about the cause of death is supplied by the medical practitioner certifying the death or by a coroner. Other information about the deceased is supplied by a relative or other person acquainted with the deceased, or by an official of the institution where the death occurred. The information is provided to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) by individual Registrars for coding and compilation into aggregate statistics. In addition, the ABS supplements this data with information from the National Coronial Information System (NCIS). The following diagram shows the process undertaken in producing cause of death statistics for Australia.

The diagram below outlines the Australian Cause of Death Statistics System. Each death is certified by either a doctor or coroner and the resultant information is provided to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) through the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in each state or territory. Information is also provided via the National Coronial Information System for those deaths certified by a coroner. The ABS processes, codes and validates this information, which is then provided in statistical outputs.

Australian cause of death statistics system

Diagram: Australian cause of death statistics system

Australian cause of death statistics system

The flow chart begins with a death event. A death even has two options, a funeral director or reportable cause of death. Funeral director registers the death with the registrar of births deaths and marriages.

A reportable death has two options, yes or no. No, a Not reportable death, will be certified by a doctor then registered with the registrar of births deaths and marriages. Yes, a reportable death, goes to a coroner investigation. Coroner investigation contains three fields, police investigation, autopsy, and other (e.g. toxicology).

Coroner investigation goes to certification by coroner. There are two options from certification by coroner, registrar of births deaths and marriages and National Coronial Information System.

The next section of the flow chart is called ABS processing. The flow chart continues from registrar of births deaths and marriages and National Coronial Information System to Australian Bureau of Statistics amalgamation and record checks.

This flows to cause of death coding and validation process. This then flows to validation and finalisation of deaths file.

The flow chat ends at the next section called statistics available to users at the statistical outputs option.

2018 scope and coverage

7 Ideally, for compiling annual time series, the number of deaths should be recorded and reported as those which occurred within a given reference period, such as a calendar year. However, there can be lags in the registration of deaths with the state or territory registries and so not all deaths are registered in the year that they occur. There may also be further delays to the ABS receiving notification of the death from the registries due to processing or data transfer lags. Therefore, every death record will have:

  • a date on which the death occurred (the date of occurrence)
  • a date on which the death is registered with the state and territory registry (date of registration); and
  • a date on which the registered death is lodged with the ABS and deemed in scope.


8 With exception to the statistics published by Year of Occurrence section (Data Cube 13), all deaths referred to in this publication relate to the number of deaths registered, not those which actually occurred, in the years shown.
 

Scope of causes of death statistics

9 The scope for each reference year of the death registrations includes:

  • deaths registered in the reference year and received by the ABS in the reference year;
  • deaths registered in the reference year and received by the ABS in the first quarter of the subsequent year; and
  • deaths registered in the years prior to the reference year but not received by ABS until the reference year or the first quarter of the subsequent year, provided that these records have not been included in any statistics from earlier periods.


10 From 2007 onwards, data for a particular reference year includes all deaths registered in Australia for the reference year that are received by the ABS by the end of the March quarter of the subsequent year. Death records received by the ABS during the March quarter of 2019 which were initially registered in 2018 (but for which registration was not fully completed until 2019) were assigned to the 2018 reference year. Any registrations relating to 2018 which were received by the ABS from April 2019 will be assigned to the 2019 reference year. Approximately 4% to 7% of deaths occurring in one year are not registered until the following year or later.

11 Prior to 2007, the scope for the reference year of the Death Registrations collection included:

  • deaths registered in the reference year and received by the ABS in the reference year;
  • deaths registered in the reference year and received by the ABS in the first quarter of the subsequent year; and
  • deaths registered during the two years prior to the reference year but not received by the ABS until the reference year.

Coverage of causes of death statistics

12 The ABS Causes of Death collection includes all deaths that occurred and were registered in Australia, including deaths of persons whose usual residence is overseas. Deaths of Australian residents that occurred outside Australia may be registered by individual Registrars, but are not included in ABS deaths or causes of death statistics.

13 Deaths registered on Norfolk Island from 1 July 2016 are included in this publication. This is due to the introduction of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015. Norfolk Island deaths are included in statistics for "Other Territories" as well as totals for all of Australia. Deaths registered on Norfolk Island prior to 1 July 2016 were not in scope for death statistics. Prior to 1 July 2016, deaths of people that occurred in Australia with a usual residence of Norfolk Island were included in Australian totals, but assigned a usual residence of 'overseas'. With the inclusion of Norfolk Island as a territory of Australia in the ASGS 2016, those deaths which occurred in Australia between January and June 2016 with a usual residence of Norfolk Island were allocated to the Norfolk Island SA2 code instead of the 'overseas' category.

14 The current scope of the statistics includes:

  • all deaths being registered for the first time;
  • deaths in Australia of temporary visitors to Australia;
  • deaths occurring within Australian Territorial waters;
  • deaths occurring in Australian Antarctic Territories or other external territories (including Norfolk Island);
  • deaths occurring in transit (i.e. on ships or planes) if registered in the State of 'next port of call';
  • deaths of Australian Nationals overseas who were employed at Australian legations and consular offices (i.e. deaths of Australian diplomats while overseas) where able to be identified; and
  • deaths that occurred in earlier reference periods that have not been previously registered (late registrations).


15 The scope of the statistics excludes:

  • repatriation of human remains where the death occurred overseas;
  • deaths overseas of foreign diplomatic staff (where these are able to be identified);
  • stillbirths/fetal deaths (these are included in perinatal counts (see Explanatory Notes 16-20, below). In 2007-2009 these were published separately in Perinatal Deaths, Australia (cat. no. 3304.0), but are now included in this publication.

Scope of perinatal death statistics

16 The scope of the perinatal death statistics includes all registered fetal deaths (at least 20 weeks' gestation or at least 400 grams' birth weight) and all registered neonatal deaths (all live born babies who die within 28 completed days of birth, regardless of gestation or birth weight). The ABS scope rules for fetal deaths are consistent with the legislated requirement for all state and territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages to register all fetal deaths which meet the above-mentioned gestation and birth weight criteria. Based on this legislative requirement, in the case of missing gestation and/or birth weight data, the fetal record is considered in scope and included in the dataset. A record is only considered out of scope if both gestation and birth weight data are present, and both fall outside the scope criteria (i.e. gestation of 19 weeks or less and birth weight of 399 grams or fewer). This scope was adopted for the 2007 Perinatal Deaths collection, and was applied to historical data for 1999-2006. For more information on the changes in scope rules see Perinatal Deaths, Australia, 2007 (cat. no. 3304.0) Explanatory Notes 18-20. These rules have been applied to all perinatal data presented in this publication.

17 The World Health Organization (WHO) definition of a perinatal death differs to that used by the ABS. The WHO definition includes all neonatal deaths, and those fetuses weighing at least 500 grams or having a gestational age of at least 22 weeks, or body length of 25 centimetres from crown to heel. A summary table based on the WHO definition of perinatal deaths is included in the perinatal data cube in this release. See Explanatory Note 81, below, for more details on the interpretation of this table for 2018.

18 Fetal deaths are registered only as a stillbirth, and are not in scope of either the Births, Australia (cat. no. 3301.0) or Deaths, Australia (cat. no. 3302.0) collections. Fetal deaths are part of the Perinatal collection, but not the Causes of Death collection. Neonatal deaths are in scope of the Deaths, Causes of Death and Perinatal collections.

19 This publication only includes information on registered fetal and neonatal deaths. Registered deaths are sourced through jurisdictional Registries of Births Deaths and Marriages (see Explanatory note 6). This scope differs from other Australian data sources on perinatal deaths. For this reason alternative datasets are not directly comparable and caution should be taken when using multiple sources for analysis.

20 Perinatal death data reported by the ABS are not comparable with the National Perinatal Mortality Data Collection (NPMDC) coordinated by the AIHW. As outlined in Explanatory note 19 the ABS data are sourced from state and territory registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages. This differs from the NPMDC whose data are sourced from health systems, including clinical records. The table below was published in the AIHW Stillbirths and neonatal deaths in Australia 2015 and 2016 report . The table shows that the ABS perinatal dataset is affected by delayed registrations which results in an under count of perinatal deaths, especially those of stillbirths. Caution should be taken when interpreting this data.

Number of perinatal deaths reported by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the National Perinatal Mortality Data Collection (NPMDC) by Year of Death, Australia, 2013–2016 (sourced from AIHW, NPMDC, 2018)
YearNPMDC StillbirthsABS StillbirthsNPMDC Neonatal deathsABS Neonatal deaths
20132,1941,706822793
20142,2251,720796742
20152,1481,714688691
20162,1151,650751696

Classifications

Socio-demographic classifications

21 A range of socio-demographic data are available from the ABS Causes of Death collection. Standard classifications used in the presentation of causes of death statistics include age, sex, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status. Statistical standards for social and demographic variables have been developed by the ABS. Where these are not released in the Causes of Death published outputs, they can be sourced on request from the ABS.

Geographic classifications

22 Since the publication of Causes of Death, Australia, 2011, the ABS has released data based on the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS). The ASGS is a hierarchical classification system that defines more stable, consistent and meaningful areas than those of the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), which was used to define geographical areas for output prior to the release of 2011 reference year data. Under the ASGS, causes of death statistics are coded to Statistical Area 2 (SA2) level, and are presented at the state/territory and national level in this publication.

23 The Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC) groups neighbouring countries into progressively broader geographic areas on the basis of their similarity in terms of social, cultural, economic and political characteristics. ABS causes of death statistics are coded using the SACC, as the collection includes overseas residents whose death occurred while they were in Australia.

24 For further information, refer to the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas, July 2016 (cat. no. 1270.0.55.001) and the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2011 (cat. no. 1269.0).

Health classifications

International Classification of Diseases (ICD)

25 The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is the international standard classification for epidemiological purposes and is designed to promote international comparability in the collection, processing, classification, and presentation of causes of death statistics. The classification is used to classify diseases and causes of disease or injury as recorded on many types of medical records as well as death records. The ICD has been revised periodically to incorporate changes in the medical field. Currently the ICD 10th revision is used for Australian causes of death statistics.

26 The ICD-10 is a variable-axis classification meaning that the classification does not group diseases only based on anatomical sites, but also on the type of disease. Epidemiological data and statistical data is grouped according to:

  • epidemic diseases;
  • constitutional or general diseases;
  • local diseases arranged by site;
  • developmental diseases; and
  • injuries.


27 For example, a systemic disease such as sepsis is grouped with infectious diseases; a disease primarily affecting one body system, such as a myocardial infarction, is grouped with circulatory diseases; and a congenital condition, such as spina bifida, is grouped with congenital conditions.

28 For further information about the ICD refer to WHO International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

29 The versions of the ICD 10th Revision are available online.

Updates to ICD-10

30 The Update and Revision Committee (URC), a WHO advisory group on updates to ICD-10, maintains the cumulative and annual lists of approved updates to the ICD-10 classification. The updates to ICD-10 are of numerous types including the addition and deletion of codes, changes to coding instructions and modification and clarification of terms.

31 From the 2013 reference year, the ABS implemented a new automated coding system called Iris. The 2013-2017 data coded in the Iris system applied an updated version of the ICD-10 (2013 version for 2013 data, and 2015 version for 2014-2017 data) when coding multiple causes of death, and when selecting the underlying cause of death. For details of further impacts of this change from 2013 data onwards, please see the ABS Implementation of the Iris Software: Understanding Coding and Process Improvements Technical Note, in the Causes of Death, Australia, 2013 (cat. no. 3303.0) publication

32 The 2018 reference year cause of death data presented in this publication was coded using version 5.4.0 of Iris software. This system replaced Iris version 4.4.1 which was used to code the 2013-2017 cause of death data. Version 5.4.0 of the Iris software applied the WHO ICD updates (2016 version) which have resulted in changes to output. For more information see Technical Note Updates to Iris coding software: Implementing WHO updates and improvements in coding processes, in the Causes of Death, Australia, 2018 (cat. no. 3303.0) publication.

33 Prior to the 2013 reference year, the 2006 version of the ICD-10 was the most recent version used for coding deaths, with the exception of two updates that were applied after the 2006 reference year. The first update was implemented in 2007 and related to the use of mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use, acute intoxication (F10.0, F11.0...F19.0) as an underlying cause of death. If the acute intoxication initiated the train of morbid events it is now assigned an external accidental poisoning code (X40-X49) corresponding to the type of drug used. For example, if the death had been due to alcohol intoxication, the underlying cause before the update was F10.0, and after the update the underlying cause is X45, with poisoning code T51.9. The second update implemented from the 2009 reference year was the addition of Influenza due to certain identified virus (J09) to the Influenza and Pneumonia block. This addition was implemented to capture deaths due to Swine flu and Avian flu, which were reaching health epidemic status worldwide.

34 The cumulative list of ICD-10 updates can be found online.

2013 - 2018 mortality coding

Automated coding

35 From the 2013 reference year onwards, the cause of death data presented in this publication was coded using the Iris coding software. This system replaced the Mortality Medical Data System (MMDS), which was used for coding cause of death data for the 1997-2012 reference years. Like MMDS, Iris is an automated coding system. Iris assigns ICD-10 codes to the diseases and conditions listed on the death certificate and then applies decision tables to select the underlying cause of death. Iris version 4.4.1 was used to code 2013-2017 deaths data. Iris version 5.4.0 was used to code 2018 data. For further details on the change to Iris coding software and associated impacts on data, please see the ABS Implementation of the Iris Software: Understanding Coding and Process Improvements Technical Note, in the Causes of Death, Australia, 2013 (cat. no. 3303.0) publication and Technical Note Updates to Iris coding software: Implementing WHO updates and improvements in coding processes, in the Causes of Death, Australia, 2018 (cat. no. 3303.0) publication.

Types of death

36 All causes of death can be grouped to describe the type of death, whether it be from a disease or condition, or from an injury, or whether the cause is unknown. These are generally described as:

  • Natural Causes - deaths due to diseases (for example diabetes, cancer, heart disease etc.) (A00-Q99, R00-R98)
  • External Causes - deaths due to causes external to the body (for example intentional self-harm, transport accidents, falls, poisoning etc.) (V01-Y98)
  • Unknown Causes - deaths where it is unable to be determined whether the cause was natural or external (R99).

External causes of death

37 Where an accidental or violent death occurs, the underlying cause is classified according to the circumstances of the fatal injury, rather than the nature of the injury, which is coded separately. For example, a motorcyclist may crash into a tree (V27.4) and sustain multiple fractures to the skull and facial bones (S02.7), which leads to death. The underlying cause of death is the crash itself (V27.4), as it is the circumstance which led to the injuries that ultimately caused the death.

Leading causes of death

38 Ranking causes of death is a useful method of describing patterns of mortality in a population and allows comparison over time and between populations. However, different methods of grouping causes of death can result in a vastly different list of leading causes for any given population. A ranking of leading causes of death based on broad cause groupings such as 'cancers' or 'heart disease' does not identify the leading causes within these groups, which is needed to inform policy on interventions and health advocacy. Similarly, a ranking based on very narrow cause groupings or including diseases that have a low frequency, can be meaningless in informing policy.

39 Tabulations of leading causes presented in this publication are based on research presented in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Volume 84, Number 4, April 2006, 297-304. The determination of groupings in this list is primarily driven by data from individual countries representing different regions of the world. Other groupings are based on prevention strategies, or to maintain homogeneity within the groups of cause categories. Since the aforementioned bulletin was published, a decision was made by WHO to include deaths associated with the H1N1 influenza strain (commonly known as swine flu) in the ICD-10 classification as Influenza due to certain identified influenza virus (J09). This code has been included with the Influenza and Pneumonia leading cause grouping in the Causes of Death publication since the 2009 reference year.

40 Since 2015, the ABS includes C26.0 (malignant neoplasm of the intestinal tract, part unspecified) in the WHO leading cause grouping for Malignant neoplasm of colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (now C18-C21, C26.0). For further details on the reasoning behind the inclusion of C26.0 in this leading cause grouping, see Complexities in the measurement of bowel cancer in Australia, in Causes of Death, Australia, 2015 (cat. no. 3303.0). This change has been applied in this publication to data for all reference years that appear in tables involving leading cause tabulations. This differs to publications prior to 2015, for which C26.0 was not included in this leading cause grouping, and also differs to the suggested WHO tabulation of leading causes for these cancers. Comparisons with data for this leading cause, and associated leading cause rankings, as they appear in previous publications should therefore be made with caution. Time-series data by leading causes has been published in Australia's leading causes of death, 2017 in this publication.

41 The ABS now includes Y87.0 (Sequelae of intentional self-harm), Y87.1 (Sequelae of assault) and Y85 (Sequelae transport accidents) in the WHO leading cause grouping for Intentional self-harm (now X60-X84, Y87.0), Assault (now X85-Y09, Y87.1) and Land transport Accidents (V01-V89, Y85). This change has been applied to harmonise data between the WHO leading cause grouping and subject specific datacubes for intentional self-harm, assault and transport accidents which is published as part of the ABS Causes of Death collection. This change applies to publication data for all reference years that appear in tables involving leading cause tabulations. This differs to previous publications, where Y87.0, Y87.1 and Y85 were not included in these leading cause groupings, and also differs to the suggested WHO tabulation of leading causes. Comparisons with data for these leading causes, and associated leading cause rankings, as they appear in previous publications should therefore be made with caution. Time-series data by leading causes has been published in Australia's leading causes of death, 2017 in this publication.

Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL)

42 Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) measures the extent of 'premature' mortality, which is assumed to be any death between the ages of 1-78 years inclusive, and aids in assessing the significance of specific diseases or trauma as a cause of premature death.

43 Estimates of YPLL are calculated for deaths of persons aged 1-78 years based on the assumption that deaths occurring at these ages are premature. The inclusion of deaths under one year would bias the YPLL calculation because of the relatively high mortality rate for that age, and 79 years was the median age at death when this series of YPLL was calculated using 2001 as the standard year. As shown below, the calculation uses the current ABS standard population of all persons in the Australian population at 30 June 2001.

44 YPLL is derived from: \(YPPL=\sum_{x}\left(D_{x}(79-A_{x}\right))\) where: \(A_{x}\) = adjusted age at death. As age at death is only available in completed years the midpoint of the reported age is chosen (e.g. age at death 34 years was adjusted to 34.5). \(D_{x}\) = registered number of deaths at age \({x}\) due to a particular cause of death. YPLL is directly standardised for age using the following formula: where the age correction factor \(C_{x}\) is defined for age \({x}\) as: \(C_{x}=\frac{N_{xs}}{N_{s}}.\frac{1}{N_{x}}.N\) where: \({N}\) = estimated number of persons resident in Australia aged 1-78 years at 30 June 2018 \(N_{x}\) = estimated number of persons resident in Australia aged \({x}\) years at 30 June 2018 \(N_{xs}\) = estimated number of persons resident in Australia aged \({x}\) years at 30 June 2001 (standard population) \(N_{s}\) = estimated number of persons resident in Australia aged 1-78 years at 30 June 2001 (standard population).

45 The data cubes contain directly standardised death rates and YPLL for males, females and persons. In some cases the summation of the results for males and females will not equate to persons. The reason for this is that different standardisation factors are applied separately for males, females and persons.

Standardised death rates

46 Age-standardised death rates enable the comparison of death rates over time and between populations of different age-structures. Along with adult, infant and child mortality rates, they are used to determine whether the mortality rate of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is declining over time, and whether the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous populations is narrowing. However, there have been inconsistencies in the way different government agencies have calculated age-standardised death rates in the past. The ABS uses the direct method of age-standardisation as it allows for valid comparisons of mortality rates between different study populations and across time. This method was agreed to by the ABS, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and other stakeholders. For further information see: AIHW (2011) Principles on the use of direct age-standardisation in administrative data collections: for measuring the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Cat. no. CSI 12. Canberra: AIHW.

47 The direct method has been used throughout the publication and data cubes for age-standardised death rates. Age-standardised death rates for specific causes of death with fewer than a total of 20 deaths have not been published due to issues of robustness.

48 For further information, see Appendix: Principles on the use of direct age-standardisation, from Deaths, Australia, 2010 (cat. no. 3302.0).

49 In this publication, age-standardised and age-specific death rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons for the 2009-2018 reference years have been calculated using 2016-Census-based population estimates (projections and backcasts). Non-Indigenous estimates have been derived by subtracting the 2016-census based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island population estimates from the total 2016-Census-based estimated resident population (ERP). Rates calculated from population denominators derived from different Censuses may cause artificially large rate differences. Rate comparisons should not be made with previous publications for Aboriginal and Torres Islander data. See Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (cat. no. 3238.0) for more information.

State and territory data

50 Causes of death statistics for states and territories in this publication have been compiled based on the state or territory of usual residence of the deceased, regardless of where in Australia the death occurred and was registered. Deaths of persons usually resident overseas which occur in Australia are included in the state/territory in which their death was registered.

51 Statistics compiled on a state or territory of registration basis are available on request.

Perinatal state and territory data

52 Given the small number of perinatal deaths which occur in some states and territories, some data provided on a state/territory basis in this publication have been aggregated for South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and Other Territories.

Data quality

53 In compiling causes of death statistics, the ABS employs a variety of measures to improve quality, which include:

  • providing certifiers with certification booklets for guidance in reporting causes of death on medical certificates, see Information Paper: Cause of Death Certification Australia, 2008 (cat. no. 1205.0.55.001);
  • seeking detailed information from the National Coronial Information System (NCIS); and
  • editing checks at the individual record and aggregate levels.
     

Coroner-certified deaths

54 The quality of causes of death coding can be affected by changes in the way information is reported by certifiers, by lags in completion of coroner cases and the processing of the findings. While changes in reporting and lags in coronial processes can affect coding of all causes of death, those coded to Chapter XVIII: Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified and Chapter XX: External causes of morbidity and mortality are more likely to be affected because the code assigned within the chapter may vary depending on the coroner's findings (in accordance with ICD-10 coding rules).

55 It is the role of the coroner to investigate the circumstances surrounding all reportable deaths and to establish, wherever possible, the circumstances surrounding the death, and the cause(s) of death. Generally most deaths due to external causes will be referred to a coroner for investigation; this includes those deaths which are possible instances of intentional self-harm (suicide).

56 Where a case remains open on the NCIS at the time the ABS ceases processing, and insufficient information is available to code a cause of death (e.g. a coroner certified death was yet to be finalised by the coroner), less specific ICD codes are assigned, as required by the ICD coding rules.

57 The specificity with which open cases are able to be coded is directly related to the amount and type of information available on the NCIS. The amount of information available for open cases varies considerably from no information to detailed police, autopsy and toxicology reports. There may also be interim findings of 'intent'.

58 The manner or intent of an injury which leads to death, is determined by whether the injury was inflicted purposefully or not. When it was inflicted purposefully (intentional), a determination should be made as to whether the injury was self-inflicted (suicide) or inflicted by another person (assault). However, intent cannot be determined in all cases.

Revisions process and other quality improvements

59 These published outputs include 2018 and 2017 preliminary data, 2016 revised data and 2015 final data. The standard ABS revisions process has not yet been applied to the 2016 and 2017 reference years that would, in the past, be subject to revisions in this publication. Causes of death revisions data will be released in early 2020.

60 For coroner-certified deaths, the specificity of cause of death coding can be affected by the length of time for the coronial process to be finalised and the coroner case closed. To improve the quality of ICD coding, all coroner-certified deaths registered after 1 January 2006 are subject to a revisions process.

61 Up to and including deaths registered in 2005, ABS Causes of Death processing was finalised at a point in time. At this point, not all coroners' cases had been investigated, the case closed and relevant information loaded into the National Coronial Information System (NCIS). The coronial process can take several years if an inquest is being held or complex investigations are being undertaken. In these instances, the cases remain open on the NCIS and relevant reports may be unavailable. Coroners' cases that have not been closed or had all information made available can impact on data quality as less specific ICD codes often need to be applied.

62 The revisions process to date has focused on cases that remain open on the NCIS database. ABS coders investigate and use additional information from police reports, toxicology reports, autopsy reports and coroners' findings to assign more specific causes of death. The use of this additional information occurs at either 12 or 24 months after initial processing and the specificity of the assigned ICD-10 codes increase over time. As 12 or 24 months pass after initial processing, many coronial cases are closed, with the coroner having dispensed a cause of death and relevant reports become available. This allows ABS coders to assign a more specific cause of death.

Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons

63 The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status of a deceased person is captured through the death registration process. It can be noted on the Death Registration Form and/or the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. However it is recognised that not all such deaths are captured through these processes, leading to under-identification. While data is provided to the ABS for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status question for around 99% of all deaths, there are concerns regarding the accuracy of the data.

64 The ABS Death Registrations collection identifies a death as being of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person where the deceased is recorded as Aboriginal, Torres Strait islander, or both on the Death Registration Form (DRF). The Indigenous status is also derived from the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) for South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory from 2007. From 2015 data onwards, the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages also used MCCD information to derive Indigenous status. For New South Wales and Victoria, the Indigenous status of the deceased is derived from the DRF only. If the Indigenous status reported in the DRF does not agree with that in the MCCD, an identification from either source that the deceased was an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person is given preference over non-Indigenous.

65 There are several data collection forms on which people are asked to state whether they are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin. Due to a number of factors, the results are not always consistent. The likelihood that a person will identify, or be identified, as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person on a specific form is known as their propensity to identify.

66 Propensity to identify as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person is determined by a range of factors, including:

  • how the information is collected (e.g. census, survey, or administrative data);
  • who provides the information (e.g. the person in question, a relative, a health professional, or an official);
  • the perception of why the information is required, and how it will be used;
  • educational programs about identifying as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person; and
  • cultural aspects and feelings associated with identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian.
     

67 In addition to those deaths where the deceased is identified as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person, a number of deaths occur each year for which the Indigenous status is not stated on the death registration form. In 2018, there were 1062 deaths registered in Australia for whom Indigenous status was not stated, representing 0.7% of all deaths registered, representing a slight increase from 2017 (0.6%). This difference is largely driven by a higher number of deaths with a not stated Indigenous status registered in New South Wales (from 600 in 2017 to 731 in 2018), and Victoria (from 144 in 2017 to 173 in 2018). All other states experienced a decrease in deaths where indigenous status was not stated representing an improvement in the dataset. See Explanatory Note 63-66 for further details.

68 Data presented in this publication may therefore underestimate the level of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths and mortality in Australia. Caution should be exercised when interpreting data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians presented in this publication, especially with regard to year-to-year changes.

69 Information on causes of death relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons is included in articles throughout this publication. Data cube 12 also provides information on causes of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. In data cube 12, numbers and rates of death are reported by jurisdiction of usual residence for New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory only. Data for Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been excluded in line with national reporting guidelines. For information on issues with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification, see Explanatory Notes 63-75.

70 Individual state/territory disaggregations of deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians by WHO Leading Causes (see Explanatory Notes 38-41) for the 2018 reference year are presented for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory only. No data are presented for South Australia, due to the small number of deaths by WHO leading causes - most causes have a count of fewer than 20 deaths, which is too small for the production of robust Standardised Death Rates (SDRs). See Explanatory Notes 46-49 for further details.

71 In this publication, age-standardised and age-specific death rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons for the 2009-2018 reference years have been calculated using 2016-Census-based population estimates (projections and backcasts). Non-Indigenous estimates have been derived by subtracting the 2016-census based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island population estimates from the total 2016-Census-based estimated resident population (ERP). Rates calculated from population denominators derived from different Censuses may cause artificially large rate differences. Rate comparisons should not be made with previous publications for Aboriginal and Torres Islander data. See Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (cat. no. 3238.0) for more information.

72 Coronial cases are more likely to be affected by a lag in registration time, especially those which are due to external causes, including suicide, homicide and drug-induced deaths. Due to small numbers these lagged coroner-referred registrations can create large yearly variation in some causes of deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons. Caution should be taken when making year to year analysis.

73 The ABS undertakes significant work aimed at improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification. The ABS is working closely with the state and territory registries of births, deaths and marriages through the National Civil Registration and Statistics Improvement Committee (NCRSIC) to progress towards improved identification in a nationally consistent way.

74 Quality studies conducted as part of the Census Data Enhancement (CDE) project have investigated the levels and consistency of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification between the 2011 Census and death registrations. See Information Paper: Death registrations to Census linkage project - Methodology and Quality Assessment, 2011-2012 (cat. no. 3302.0.55.004).

75 An assessment of various methods for adjusting incomplete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander death registration data for use in compiling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life tables and life expectancy estimates is presented in Discussion Paper: Assessment of Methods for Developing Life Tables for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2006 (cat. no. 3302.0.55.002), released on 17 November 2008. Final tables based on feedback received from this discussion paper, using information from the Census Data Enhancement (CDE) study, can be found in Life Tables for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2010-2012 (cat. no. 3302.0.55.003).

Deaths by type of certifier

76 For deaths in the 2018 reference year, 11.9% were certified by a coroner. There are variations between jurisdictions in relation to the proportion of deaths certified by a coroner, ranging from 8.2% of deaths certified by a coroner and registered in Queensland, to 26.1% of deaths certified by a coroner and registered in the Northern Territory. The proportion of deaths certified by a coroner in 2018 is comparable to previous years.

Issues to be considered when interpreting time-series and 2018 data

77 The 2018 publication has followed the same process of publication as the 2017 data. The 2017 publication was released six months earlier than usual, allowing for more timely access to mortality data in Australia. For further details on data considerations, see A more timely annual collection: changes to ABS processes (Technical Note), Causes of Death, Australia, 2015 (cat. no. 3303.0).

Use of Iris as a new auto-coding system and implementation of updates to ICD-10

78 From the 2013 reference year onwards, the cause of death data presented in this publication was coded using the Iris coding software. This system replaced the Mortality Medical Data System (MMDS), which was used for coding cause of death data for the 1997-2012 reference years. Like MMDS, Iris is an automated coding system. Iris assigns ICD-10 codes to the diseases and conditions listed on the death certificate and then applies decision tables to select the underlying cause of death. Iris version 4.4.1 was used to code 2013-2017 deaths data. Iris version 5.4.0 was used to code 2018 data. For further details on the change to Iris coding software and associated impacts on data, please see the ABS Implementation of the Iris Software: Understanding Coding and Process Improvements Technical Note, in the Causes of Death, Australia, 2013 (cat. no. 3303.0) publication and Technical Note Updates to Iris coding software: Implementing WHO updates and improvements in coding processes, in the Causes of Death, Australia, 2018 (cat. no. 3303.0) publication.

79 Users analysing time-series or 2018 cause of death data should take into account a number of issues, as outlined below, which are unrelated to the implementation of Iris.

Coding of perinatal deaths

80 For perinatal data output in the Causes of Death, Australia, 2013 publication, the ABS began a review of its method of coding perinatal deaths, which resulted in an interim change to how this data was output. One significant change was that neonatal deaths were not assigned an underlying cause of death when output in tables of all ages, as had previously occurred. (Details of this change can be found in the Changes to Perinatal Death Coding Technical Note in Causes of Death, Australia, 2013 (cat. no. 3303.0). Further review and consultation has now been undertaken with the national and international coding community, and has resulted in the ABS applying a new method of coding perinatal deaths. The new method creates a sequence of causes on a Medical Certificate of Cause of Perinatal Death which allows for an underlying cause of death to be assigned to a neonatal death. This aligns the output for neonatal deaths to deaths of the general population which are certified using the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. The change in coding method reinstates the condition arising in the mother being assigned as an underlying cause of death. This method has been applied to the 2014-2018 data, and has also been applied retrospectively to the 2013 neonatal data that is output in tables of all ages in this publication, thus enabling a consistent time-series. Please see the Changes to Perinatal Death Coding Technical Note in Causes of Death, Australia, 2014 (cat. no. 3303.0) for further details.

81 From the 2013 reference year onwards, process changes have led to a reduction in the number of both stillbirths and neonatal deaths where a 'main condition in mother' was recorded, compared to previous years. This has led to a reduction in the number of records assigned within the code block P00-P04: Fetus and newborn affected by maternal factors and by complications of pregnancy, labour and delivery, as main condition in the mother. These changes will affect data output in the Perinatal data cube of this publication only.

82 Doctor-certified neonatal deaths with no cause of death information are coded to Conditions originating in the perinatal period, unspecified (P969). As these deaths have been certified by a doctor, the assumption is made that the neonate died of natural causes. Where a neonatal death is referred to a coroner, but no cause of death information is available, these deaths are coded to Other ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99). As a reportable death, it cannot be determined whether the neonate died of natural or external causes, in the absence of further information.

83 The count of fetal deaths in scope for the World Health Organization (WHO) definition of perinatal deaths differs to those previously published for 2012 and 2015. This is due to an enhancement to birth weight and gestation information, which resulted in some deaths no longer meeting the World Health Organization definition of a fetal death (that is, a gestational age of at least 22 weeks or weighing at least 500 grams). For 2012, there are two fewer fetal deaths than previously published (1 male and 1 female). For 2015, there are 38 fewer fetal deaths than previously published (18 males, 19 females, 1 death of undetermined sex). Some corresponding death rates have also been affected. Table 14.21 in the perinatal data cube presents fetal and neonatal data according to the WHO scope. No other tables in the perinatal deaths data cube are affected by these changes.

Increased number of deaths, New South Wales

84 In September quarter 2011 the high number of death registrations in New South Wales was queried with the New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Information provided by the Registry indicates that these fluctuations may be the result of changes in processing rates. This may have contributed to the increase in the number of deaths registered in New South Wales in 2011. New South Wales deaths in 2011 (50,182) were 5.8% higher than in 2010 (47,453).

Accident to watercraft causing drowning and submersion (V90)

85 The number of deaths attributable to Accident to watercraft causing drowning and submersion (V90) increased from 26 in 2010 to 75 in 2011. This increase is primarily due to deaths resulting from an incident in December 2010 when a boat collided with cliffs on Christmas Island. These deaths were registered with the Western Australian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in January 2011, resulting in an increase in the number of deaths coded to V90 in Western Australia.

Pneumonia, organism unspecified (J18)

86 As part of a collection-wide initiative by the ABS to improve specificity of cause of death coding in the 2008 and 2009 reference years, doctor-certified deaths due to Pneumonia, organism unspecified (J18) reduced substantially. This was as a result of the ABS manually interrogating conditions located in Part 2 of the Medical Certificate Cause of Death (MCCD), reallocating them to a more specific cause of death code.

87 In 2010 there was a shift in this pattern. The number of doctor-certified deaths assigned to J18 increased by 690 deaths, or 49.5%. The reason for the 2010 data movement was a more consistent use of coding software decision tables throughout both coding and quality assurance processes. These decision tables provide clear rules for when Pneumonia can be selected as an underlying cause of death, in relation to the information listed in Part 2 of the MCCD.

88 The 2010 increase represented a return to counts observed prior to 2008. In 2007, 2,293 doctor certified deaths were assigned to J18, therefore the 2010 count for this cause of death (2,085) is considered a return to the trend which existed prior to the coding of 2008 and 2009 data. The data from 2011 onwards has been consistent with this trend.

Transport accidents (V01-V79, Y32)

89 There were 1,273 deaths attributed to road crashes (V01-V79, V892, X82, Y32) in 2018. Of these, 37 were of suicidal intent (X82) and there were a further 16 where the intent could not be determined (Y32). When making comparisons between road deaths from the ABS Causes of Death collection and road deaths from other sources, the scope and coverage rules applying to each collection should be considered. It should be noted that the number of road-traffic-related deaths attributed to transport accidents for 2018 is expected to change as data is subject to the revisions process. See Explanatory Notes 59-62 and the Causes of Death Revisions, 2015 Final Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2017 for further details.

Assault (X85-Y09, Y87.1)

90 The number of deaths recorded as Assault (X85-Y09, Y87.1) i.e. murder, manslaughter and their sequelae, published in the ABS Causes of Death publication, differ from those published by the ABS in Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2017 (cat. no. 4510.0). Reasons for the different counts include differences in scope and coverage between the two collections, as well as legal proceedings that are pending finalisation. It is important to note that the number of deaths attributed to assault for 2018 is expected to change as data is subject to the revisions process. See Explanatory Notes 59-62 and Causes of Death Revisions, 2015 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2016 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2017 (cat. no. 3303.0).

Intentional self-harm (suicide) (X60-X84, Y87.0)

91 The number of deaths attributed to intentional self-harm for 2018 is expected to increase as data is subject to the revisions process. For further information, see Explanatory Notes 59-62 and the Causes of Death Revisions, 2015 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2016 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2017 (cat. no. 3303.0).

92 From 2006 onwards, the ABS implemented a revisions process for coroner-certified deaths (such as suicides), which has enabled additional suicide deaths to be identified beyond initial processing (see Explanatory Notes 54-62). It is recognised that in the four years prior to the implementation of the revisions process (2002-2005), suicide deaths may have been understated as the ABS began using the National Coronial Information System as the sole source for coding coroner-referred deaths.

93 In addition to the revisions process, new coding guidelines were applied for deaths registered from 1 January 2007. The new guidelines improve data quality by enabling deaths to be coded to suicide if evidence indicates the death was from intentional self-harm. Previously, coding rules required a coroner to determine a death as intentional self-harm for it to be coded to suicide. However, in some instances the coroner does not make a finding on intent. The reasons for this may include legislative or regulatory barriers around the requirement to determine intent, or sensitivity to the feelings, cultural practices and religious beliefs of the family of the deceased. Further, for some mechanisms of death it may be very difficult to determine suicidal intent (e.g. single vehicle incidents, drowning). In these cases the burden of proof required for the coroner to establish that the death was as a result of intentional self-harm may make a finding of suicide less likely.

94 Under the new coding guidelines, in addition to coroner-determined suicides, deaths may also be coded to suicide following further investigation of information on the NCIS. Further investigation of a death would be initiated when the mechanism of death indicates a possible suicide and the coroner does not specifically state the intent as accidental or homicidal. Information that would support a determination of suicide includes indications by the person that they intended to take their own life, the presence of a suicide note, or knowledge of previous suicide attempts. The processes for coding open and closed coroner cases are illustrated in the below diagrams (open/closed case coding decision trees)

95 Over time, the NCIS has worked with jurisdictions to improve the timeliness and completeness of information flowing from the coronial systems to the NCIS database. These improvements lead to changes in the information available to ABS coding staff. It is therefore important that data users are aware of any significant improvements in the management of coronial data to enable better interpretation of data within, and between, reference periods.

96 In 2012, the implementation of JusticeLink in the NSW coronial system significantly changed how information is exchanged between the NSW coroners courts and the NCIS. This system enables nightly uploads of all new information to the NCIS, and as a result information pertaining to NSW coronial cases is available earlier in the investigation process and the information is more complete for the purposes of coding causes of death.

97 There is evidence that the system change in NSW has improved the quality of preliminary coding in relation to deaths due to intentional self-harm. There has been an increase in the number of preliminary intentional self-harm deaths registered in NSW when comparing 2012-2017 counts (708, 694, 798, 819, 799 and 881, respectively) with those of 2011 (568), coupled with fewer cases of deaths of undetermined intent (Y10-Y34).

98 Coronial cases are more likely to be affected by a lag in registration time, especially those which are due to external causes, including suicide, homicide and drug-related deaths. Due to small numbers these lagged coroner-referred registrations can create large yearly variation in some causes of deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons. Caution should be taken when making year to year analysis.

99 More broadly, change in administrative systems highlights how various factors (including administrative and system changes, certification practices, classification updates or coding rule changes) can impact on the mortality dataset. Data users should note this particular change and be cautious when making comparisons between reference periods. The change does not explain away differences between years, but is a factor to consider. It should also be noted as a factor that may influence the magnitude of any increases in suicide numbers as revisions are applied.

100 The two flow charts below highlight the guidelines used by the ABS when coding a death to intentional self-harm for open and closed coroner cases, where the intent status at the time of coding is neither intentional self-harm nor assault. In these cases, the ABS considers additional information available on NCIS, such as the mechanism and other available data (e.g. the presence of a suicide note or previous suicide attempts) when determining the intent of such deaths for coding purposes.

Coding of Open Cases on NCIS to Intentional Self-harm

Diagram: Coding of Open Cases on NCIS to Intentional Self-harm

Coding of Open Cases on NCIS to Intentional Self-harm

Flowchart begins with: Open case on NCIS is the first option with only one option.

Flows to: Is there any cause information available? With two options Y or N.

N flows to Code to ICD-10 code R99.

Y flows to: Is there and external cause? With two options Y or N.

N flows to Code to ICD-10 cods A00-Q99.

Y flows to: Does the record have and initial intent status of intentional self-harm or assault? With two options Y or N.

Y flows to: Code to relevant intentional self-harm code (X60-X84, Y87.0) or assault code (X85-Y09, Y87.1)

N flows to: Does the mechanism indicate a possible suicide (e.g. Death due to hanging, falling from a man-made or natural structure, a firearm, a sharp or blunt object, or carbon monoxide poisoning due to exhaust fumes)? With on option Y.

Y flows to: Coders assess available data such as: (List of 3)
Mention of intent to self inflict or self harm.
Wording such as 'there is no evident to suggest this death was accidental or suspicious'.
Mention of a suicide note, previous suicide attempts or a history of mental illness in the police and pathology reports

Flows on to: Is there sufficient evidence to indicate the death was a suicide? With two options Y and N.

Y flows to: Code to relevant intentional self-harm code (X60-X84, Y78.2)

N flows to: Does the record have an initial intent status of accident? With two options Y or N.

Y flows to: Code mechanism to relevant accident code (V01-X59,Y85, Y86)

N flows to: Code to relevant undetermined intent code (Y10-y34, Y78.2)

End of flow chart

Registration of outstanding deaths, Queensland

101 In November 2010, the Queensland Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages advised the ABS of an outstanding deaths registration initiative undertaken by the registry. This initiative resulted in the November 2010 registration of 374 previously unregistered deaths which occurred between 1992 and 2006 (including a few for which a date of death was unknown). Of these, around three-quarters (284) were deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. A data adjustment is made for tables which include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data for Queensland for 2010. For further information refer to Technical Notes, Registration of Outstanding Deaths, Queensland, 2010 in Deaths, Australia, 2010 (cat. no. 3302.0) and Retrospective Deaths by Causes of Death, Queensland, 2010, in Causes of Death, Australia, 2010 (cat. no. 3303.0).

Births data

102 See the 'Data Used in Calculating Death Rates' Appendix for details of the number of live births registered which have been used to calculate the fetal, neonatal and perinatal death rates shown in this publication. This Appendix also provides data on fetal deaths used in the calculation of fetal and perinatal death rates. These also enable further rates to be calculated.

103 In 2016 the NSW Registry changed the 'proof of identity' requirements for parents registering a new birth. This led to delays in registration of births for 2016 and 2017. The ABS has been working with the NSW Registry to improve the birth registration lag, The recent launch of online birth registration in 2018 by the NSW Registry appears to be improving birth registration time frames for both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians.

104 In 2016 and 2017 there were lower than expected registration counts for New South Wales. The ABS worked with the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (NSW RBDM) to investigate these counts, highlighting that changes to identity requirements in 2016 had prevented some registrations from being finalised. The NSW RBDM worked with parents to finalise these registrations, enabling many to be included in 2018 counts. Other initiatives also contributed to the higher count of births in NSW in 2018, including the implementation of an online birth registration system and a campaign aimed at increasing registrations among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents.

105 In 2018, the Northern Territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages identified a processing issue that led to delays in completing the registration of some births that occurred in previous years. These births have since been registered, resulting in 355 additional births being included in 2018 data, the majority of which (339) were of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Care should be taken when interpreting changes in birth counts and fertility rates for the Northern Territory in recent years.

Use of multiple cause of death data

106 Multiple causes of death include all causes and conditions reported on the death certificate (i.e. both underlying and associated causes; see the Glossary for further details). As all entries on the death certificate are taken into account, multiple cause of death statistics are valuable in recognising the impact of conditions and diseases which are less likely to be an underlying cause, highlighting relationships between concurrent disease processes, and giving an indication of injuries which occur as a result of specific external events. These features of multiple cause of death data provide a more in depth picture of mortality in Australia.

107 When analysing data on multiple causes of death, data can be presented in two ways: by counts of deaths or by counts of mentions. When analysis is conducted by counts of death, the figures are describing the number of people who have died with a particular disease or disorder. Multiple Cause of Death data derived from counts of mentions is the total number of incidences of a particular disease or disorder on the death certificate. For example, an individual may have had Breast cancer (C50) and then developed Secondary lung cancer (C78.0). This individual would be counted once if counts were by the number of deaths from cancer, but twice if the counts were by the number of mentions of cancer. Care should be taken to differentiate between counts and mentions when analysing multiple cause of death data.

108 Changes in patterns of mortality are studied by policy makers and researchers to improve health outcomes for all Australians. However, changes in patterns of mortality can occur for many reasons. Changes can reflect a real increase or decrease in the prevalence of a disease or disorder, or a change in medical treatment. Mortality data changes can also be a result of administrative processes which can potentially impact on the data, for example, International Classification of Disease (ICD) coding classification changes and updates, and differences in how deaths are certified. Analysis of the multiple causes of death data can give a deeper understanding of how the complete dataset may be affected by both real and administrative changes. For example, in 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended introducing code J09 (Influenza due to certain identified influenza virus) to the ICD-10 in response to the worldwide epidemics of swine flu and avian flu. There were 98 people who died as a direct consequence of contracting these strains of the flu across 2009 and 2010. In addition there were 51 people who had this flu when they died and for whom this would have been a complicating factor. Additional health risk factors may also be identified. When swine or avian flu was the underlying cause of death, multiple cause data shows obesity and respiratory problems as a common associated cause. In this way, multiple cause data provides policy makers and researchers a greater insight beyond the underlying cause of death.

Confidentialisation of data

109 Data cells with small values have been randomly assigned to protect confidentiality. As a result some totals will not equal the sum of their components. Cells with 0 values have not been affected by confidentialisation.

Effects of rounding

110 Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between totals and sums of the component items.

Emerging issues

111 The Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (RBDM) implemented a new registration system in February 2019. As part of this system implementation, certain policies and procedures have changed within the registry. Of note, the Victorian RBDM has changed their procedures regarding the registration of coroner-referred deaths. Previously coroner-certified deaths were not submitted to the ABS until the case was finalised in the Victorian Coroner Court. From 2019, this has changed and interim registrations (open cases) have been submitted to the ABS. This procedural change has resulted in an additional delay to registrations in 2018 and previous years, but the change to procedure is expected to lead to an increased number of coroner-referred registrations in 2019.

ABS products

112 ABS published outputs are available free of charge from the ABS website. Click on 'Statistics' to gain access to the full range of ABS statistical and reference information. For details on products scheduled for release in the coming week, click on the Future Releases link on the ABS homepage.

Appendix - data used in calculating death rates

Show all

Data input

The following tables contain data used in calculating the various rates referred to in this publication.

Table A1.1 presents Estimated Resident Population (ERP) as at 30 June 2018. These data have been used to calculate Standardised Death Rates, Age-specific death rates and Years of Potential Life Lost for 2018 data. These data were released in Australian Demographic Statistics, Jun 2018 (cat. no. 3101.0), on 20 December 2018.

The rates produced for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons in this publication are based on estimates and projections. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population data are based on Series B population projections released in Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2006 to 2031 (cat. no. 3238.0), which have backcast estimates of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous population for the period 30 June 2006 to 30 June 2016. These estimates have been derived on the 2016 Census data. When comparison rates are produced for non-Indigenous persons, the denominator is derived by subtracting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population estimates/projections from the relevant total persons ERP. The rebased population is larger than the previous 2011 base population, and as a result the size and structure of the population by Indigenous status is different to previously published. Given this difference in population estimates, caution should be used when interpreting data and comparing rates from previous publications based on 2011 estimates. Such figures have a degree of uncertainty and should be used with caution, particularly as the time from the base year of the projection series increases. See Explanatory Note 49 for further information.

A1.1 Estimated resident population, by age and sex: 30 June 2018
MalesFemalesPersons
Under 1161,159152,410313,569
1-4651,696616,9511,268,647
5-9823,368781,0421,604,410
10-14779,124736,4991,515,623
15-19765,092725,7741,490,866
20-24890,778849,2591,740,037
25-29941,167936,5021,877,669
30-34921,438941,0311,862,469
35-39857,764864,6431,722,407
40-44793,368800,4961,593,864
45-49818,607851,5861,670,193
50-54749,281779,5851,528,866
55-59749,919779,3681,529,287
60-64661,454697,9871,359,441
65-69590,074617,0541,207,128
70-74500,070517,9671,018,037
75-79333,768366,717700,485
80-84218,486267,200485,686
85-89126,256182,810309,066
90-9452,33697,426149,762
95 and over12,69332,16444,857
All ages12,397,89812,594,47124,992,369

Table A1.2 presents the number of live births for Australia for 2009 to 2018. These data have been used in calculating infant death rates - the number of deaths of children under one year of age per 1,000 live births in the same period. Data for 2009 to 2017 were released in Births, Australia, 2017 (cat. no. 3301.0). At the time of this publication's release, a summary of births data for 2018 is presented in Deaths, Australia, 2018 (cat. no. 3302.0).

A1.2 Live births registered, Australia: 2009, 2014-2018
MalesFemalesPersons
2009154,875146,378301,253
2014153,592146,105299,697
2015157,088148,289305,377
2016159,537151,567311,104
2017159,221149,921309,142
2018162,088153,059315,147

Perinatal death rate

For comparison and measuring purposes, perinatal deaths in this publication have also been expressed as rates. These rates are defined as follows:

  • for fetal deaths and total perinatal deaths, the rates represent the number of deaths per 1,000 all births, which comprises live births and fetal deaths combined (where gestation is at least 20 weeks or birth weight is at least 400 grams).
  • for neonatal deaths, the rates represent the number of deaths per 1,000 live births.

20 weeks' gestation or 400 grams birth weight

The following tables contain births data used in calculating perinatal death rates. Tables A1.3 and A1.4 are used to calculate perinatal death rates based on the 20 weeks' gestation or 400 grams birth weight definition for fetal deaths. In this publication, this definition has been applied to all 2009-2018 reference year data, with exception to one table in the Perinatal data cube, which applies the World Health Organisation definition of a perinatal death (see details further below).

A1.3 All births(a), by sex of child(b) - and state or territory of usual residence of mother

  STATE OR TERRITORY OF USUAL RESIDENCE
  NSWVic.QldSAWATas.NTACTAust.(d)
2018
Live Births         
 Males
55,216
40,354
31,885
9,828
17,113
2,855
2,085
2,732
162,088
 Females
52,127
38,134
30,046
9,285
16,144
2,692
1,965
2,642
153,059
 Persons
1,073,43
78,488
61,931
19,113
33,257
5,547
4,050
5,374
315,147
Stillbirths(c)         
 Males
277
247
167
25
109
20
23
15
883
 Females
238
188
162
38
99
20
18
15
778
 Persons(b)
518
442
332
64
209
40
45
32
1,682
Total         
 Males
55,493
40,601
32,052
9,853
17,222
2,875
2,108
2,747
162,971
 Females
52,365
38,322
30,208
9,323
16,243
2,712
1,983
2,657
153,837
 Persons(b)
107,861
78,930
62,263
19,177
33,466
5,587
4,095
5,406
316,829
2017
Live Births         
 Males
49,536
42,308
31,720
9,867
17,743
2,843
1,981
3,208
159,221
 Females
47,055
39,786
29,438
9,205
16,755
2,767
1,901
2,999
149,921
 Persons
96,591
82,094
61,158
19,072
34,498
5,610
3,882
6,207
309,142
Stillbirths(c)         
 Males
249
247
212
27
131
16
16
18
916
 Females
237
215
176
33
105
18
18
20
822
 Persons(b)
491
471
390
60
236
38
34
40
1,760
Total         
 Males
49,785
42,555
31,932
9,894
17,874
2,859
1,997
3,226
160,137
 Females
47,292
40,001
29,614
9,238
16,860
2,785
1,919
3,019
150,743
 Persons(b)
97,082
82,565
61,548
19,132
34,734
5,648
3,916
6,247
310,902
2016
Live Births
49,220
42,438
31,495
10,240
18,396
3,052
2,033
2,647
159,537
 Males
46,863
40,454
30,346
9,532
17,033
2,916
1,894
2,505
151,567
 Females
96,083
82,892
61,841
19,772
35,429
5,968
3,927
5,152
311,104
 Persons         
Stillbirths(c)
237
249
212
30
130
29
18
11
916
 Males
225
204
190
38
96
20
9
11
793
 Females
465
460
406
68
226
49
28
22
1724
 Persons(b)         
Total
49,457
42,687
31,707
10,270
18,526
3,081
2,051
2,658
160,453
 Males
47,088
40,658
30,536
9,570
17,129
2,936
1,903
2,516
152,360
 Females
96,548
83,352
62,247
19,840
35,655
6,017
3,955
5,174
312,828
 Persons(b)         
2015
Live Births         
 Males
51,342
37,832
31,850
10,018
18,076
2,932
2,109
2,910
157,088
 Females
48,737
35,736
29,895
9,569
17,059
2,748
1,895
2,632
148,289
 Persons
100,079
73,568
61,745
19,587
35,135
5,680
4,004
5,542
305,377
Stillbirths(c)         
 Males
294
168
205
49
126
20
16
18
896
 Females
240
172
192
35
115
17
21
10
802
 Persons(b)
540
348
400
84
242
38
38
28
1 718
Total         
 Males
51,636
38,000
32,055
10,067
18,202
2,952
2,125
2,928
157,984
 Females
48,977
35,908
30,087
9,604
17,174
2,765
1,916
2,642
149,091
 Persons(b)
100,619
73,916
62,145
19,671
35,377
5,718
4,042
5,570
307,095
2014
Live Births         
 Males
46,689
38,057
32,292
10,370
18,184
3,029
2,072
2,883
153,592
 Females
44,385
36,167
30,774
10,014
17,219
2,906
1,954
2,669
146,105
 Persons
91,074
74,224
63,066
20,384
35,403
5,935
4,026
5,552
299,697
Stillbirths(c)         
 Males
202
197
231
45
125
34
11
23
868
 Females
201
194
190
42
113
35
17
20
812
 Persons(b)
405
402
424
88
238
69
29
43
1,698
Total         
 Males
46,891
38,254
32,523
10,415
18,309
3,063
2,083
2,906
154,460
 Females
44,586
36,361
30,964
10,056
17,332
2,941
1,971
2,689
146,917
 Persons(b)
91,479
74,626
63,490
20,472
35,641
6,004
4,055
5,595
301,395
2013
Live Births         
 Males
51,875
38,056
32,759
10,435
17,674
3,035
2,025
2,831
158,706
 Females
48,587
35,913
30,595
9,655
16,842
3,014
2,028
2,714
149,359
 Persons
100,462
73,969
63,354
20,090
34,516
6,049
4,053
5,545
308,065
Stillbirths(c)         
 Males
281
243
205
39
115
24
22
12
941
 Females
278
204
168
36
90
18
17
15
826
 Persons(b)
561
450
376
77
205
44
39
29
1,781
Total         
 Males
52,156
38,299
32,964
10,474
17,789
3,059
2,047
2,843
159,647
 Females
48,865
36,117
30,763
9,691
16,932
3,032
2,045
2,729
150,185
 Persons(b)
101,023
74,419
63,730
20,167
34,721
6,093
4,092
5,574
309,846
2012
Live Births         
 Males
50,641
39,656
32,876
10,517
17,254
3,144
2,078
2,803
158,988
 Females
47,867
37,749
30,961
9,916
16,373
3,024
2,026
2,658
150,594
 Persons
98,508
77,405
63,837
20,433
33,627
6,168
4,104
5,461
309,582
Stillbirths(c)         
 Males
283
219
216
37
118
27
15
21
943
 Females
230
211
233
34
121
18
8
18
875
 Persons(b)
517
435
452
71
239
45
23
41
1,832
Total         
 Males
50,924
39,875
33,092
10,554
17,372
3,171
2,093
2,824
159,931
 Females
48,097
37,960
31,194
9,950
16,494
3,042
2,034
2,676
151,469
 Persons(b)
99,025
77,840
64,289
20,504
33,866
6,213
4,127
5,502
311,414
2011
Live Births         
 Males
50,986
36,900
32,237
10,146
16,557
3,405
2,039
2,708
154,996
 Females
48,068
34,544
31,016
9,746
15,702
3,203
1,915
2,413
146,621
 Persons
99,054
71,444
63,253
19,892
32,259
6,608
3,954
5,121
301,617
Stillbirths(c)         
 Males
281
227
181
42
128
26
21
15
923
 Females
231
170
194
46
126
23
13
13
818
 Persons(b)
513
400
377
89
254
49
34
28
1 748
Total         
 Males
51,267
37,127
32,418
10,188
16,685
3,431
2,060
2,723
155,919
 Females
48,299
34,714
31,210
9,792
15,828
3,226
1,928
2,426
147,439
 Persons(b)
99,567
71,844
63,630
19,981
32,513
6,657
3,988
5,149
303,365
2010
Live Births         
 Males
51,943
36,141
33,031
10,397
16,063
3,317
2,026
2,662
155,591
 Females
49,323
34,431
31,492
9,681
15,361
3,068
1,873
2,490
147,727
 Persons
101,266
70,572
64,523
20,078
31,424
6,385
3,899
5,152
303,318
Stillbirths(c)         
 Males
270
209
229
39
92
33
18
44
934
 Females
228
194
204
39
93
21
13
27
819
 Persons(b)
499
407
441
78
185
54
31
72
1,767
Total         
 Males
52,213
36,350
33,260
10,436
16,155
3,350
2,044
2,706
156,525
 Females
49,551
34,625
31,696
9,720
15,454
3,089
1,886
2,517
148,546
 Persons(b)
101,765
70,979
64,964
20,156
31,609
6,439
3,930
5,224
305,085
2009
Live Births         
 Males
50,411
36,284
34,086
10,233
15,896
3,392
1,991
2,574
154,875
 Females
47,820
34,644
32,063
9,502
14,983
3,235
1,829
2,286
146,378
 Persons
98,231
70,928
66,149
19,735
30,879
6,627
3,820
4,860
301,253
Stillbirths(c)         
 Males
250
236
238
35
121
31
18
18
947
 Females
240
194
199
40
94
25
20
7
820
 Persons(b)
495
432
441
75
215
57
39
25
1,780
Total         
 Males
50,661
36,520
34,324
10,268
16,017
3,423
2,009
2,592
155,822
 Females
48,060
34,838
32,262
9,542
15,077
3,260
1,849
2,293
147,198
 Persons(b)
98,726
71,360
66,590
19,810
31,094
6,684
3,859
4,885
303,033
a. All births consists of all live births, plus all fetal deaths that conform to the 20 weeks' gestation or 400 grams birth weight definition.
b. The stillbirths count for 'Persons' includes those stillbirth deaths for which the sex could not be determined. The sum of male and female stillbirths may therefore not sum to the Persons total.
c. Includes those where it is unknown if heartbeat ceased before or after the delivery.
d. Includes Other Territories.
A1.4 All births(a), by sex(b)
Live BirthsStillbirths(c)Total
MalesFemalesPersonsMalesFemalesPersons(b)MalesFemalesPersons(b)
2018162,088153,059315,1478837781,682162,971153,837316,829
2017159,221149,921309,1429168221,760160,137150,743310,902
2016159,537151,567311,1049167931,724160,453152,360312,828
2015157,088148,289305,3778968021,718157,984149,091307,095
2014153,592146,105299,6978688121,698154,460146,917301,395
2013158,706149,359308,0659418261,781159,647150,185309,846
2012158,988150,594309,5829438751,832159,931151,469311,414
2011154,996146,621301,6179238181,748155,919147,439303,365
2010155,591147,727303,3189348191,767156,525148,546305,085
2009154,875146,378301,2539478201,780155,822147,198303,033
  1. All births consists of all live births, plus all fetal deaths that conform to the 20 weeks' gestation or 400 grams birth weight definition.
  2. The stillbirths count for 'Persons' includes those stillbirth deaths for which the sex could not be determined. The sum of male and female stillbirths may therefore not sum to the Persons total.
  3. Includes those where it is unknown if heartbeat ceased before or after the delivery.

22 weeks' gestation or 500 grams birth weight

Table A1.5 contains births data used in the calculation of perinatal death rates based on the WHO definition of all neonatal deaths and those fetal deaths of 22 weeks' gestation or 500 grams birth weight. A time series of perinatal death counts based on the WHO definition is presented in the Perinatal datacube.

A1.5 All births(a), by sex(b)
Live BirthsStillbirths(c)Total
MalesFemalesPersonsMalesFemalesPersons(b)MalesFemalesPersons(b)
2018162,088153,059315,1477536651,433162,841153,724316,580
2017159,221149,921309,1427727181,508159,993150,639310,650
2016159,537151,567311,1047676751,451160,304152,242312,555
2015157,088148,289305,3777757141,504157,863149,003306,881
2014153,592146,105299,6977597381,513154,351146,843301,210
2013158,706149,359308,0658307601,603159,536150,119309,668
2012158,988150,594309,5827847181,514159,772151,312311,096
2011154,996146,621301,6177416721,416155,737147,293303,033
2010155,591147,727303,3187977211,524156,388148,448304,842
2009154,875146,378301,2538967711,679155,771147,149302,932
  1. All births consists of all live births, plus all fetal deaths that conform to the 22 weeks' gestation or 500 grams birth weight definition.
  2. The stillbirths count for 'Persons' includes those stillbirth deaths for which the sex could not be determined. The sum of male and female stillbirths may therefore not sum to the Persons total.
  3. Includes those where it is unknown if heartbeat ceased before or after the delivery.
  4. The count of fetal deaths in scope for the World Health Organisation (WHO) definition of perinatal deaths differs to those previously published for 2012 and 2015. This is due to an enhancement to birth weight and gestation information, which resulted in some deaths no longer meeting the World Health Organisation definition of a fetal death (that is, a gestational age of at least 22 weeks or weighing at least 500 grams).  For 2012, there are two fewer fetal deaths than previously published (1 male and 1 female).  For 2015, there are 38 fewer fetal deaths than previously published (18 males, 19 females, 1 death of undetermined sex).  Some corresponding death rates have also been affected.  No other tables in this data cube are affected by these changes.

Appendix - tabulation of selected causes of death

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Introduction

There are standard ways for listing causes of death and there are formal recommendations concerning lists for tabulation to assist international comparisons. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides a number of standard tabulation lists for presentation of causes of death statistics, that assist international comparability. WHO also recommend that when there is not a need for international comparability then lists should be designed to reflect local requirements. These special lists can be developed, for example, to monitor progress of local health programmes.

Firearm deaths tabulation

Causes of death attributable to firearm mortality include ICD-10 codes:

W32-W34, Accidental discharge of firearms; 
X72-X74, Intentional self-harm (suicide) by discharge of firearms; 
X93-X95, Assault (homicide) by discharge of firearms; 
Y22-Y24, Discharge of firearms, undetermined intent; and 
Y35.0, Legal intervention involving firearm discharge.

Deaths from injury by firearms exclude deaths due to explosives and other causes indirectly related to firearms.

Drug-induced deaths tabulation

The data presented for drug-induced deaths iin this publication is based upon tabulation created by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Causes of death attributable to drug-induced mortality include ICD-10 codes:

D52.1, Drug-induced folate deficiency anaemia;
D59.0, Drug-induced haemolytic anaemia;
D59.2, Drug-induced nonautoimmune haemolytic anaemia;
D61.1, Drug-induced aplastic anaemia;
D64.2, Secondary sideroblastic anaemia due to drugs and toxins;
E06.4, Drug-induced thyroiditis;
E16.0, Drug-induced hypoglycaemia without coma;
E23.1, Drug-induced hypopituitarism;
E24.2, Drug-induced Cushing’s syndrome;
E27.3, Drug-induced adrenocortical insufficiency;
E66.1, Drug-induced obesity;
F11.0-F11.5, Use of opoids causing intoxication, harmful use (abuse), dependence, withdrawal or psychosis
F11.7-F11.9, Use of opoid causing late onset psychosis, other mental and behavioural disorders and unspecified behavioural disorders.
F12.0-F12.5, Use of cannabis causing intoxication, harmful use (abuse), dependence, withdrawal or psychosis
F12.7-F12.9, Use of cannabis causing late onset psychosis, other mental and behavioural disorders and unspecified behavioural disorders. 
F13.0-F13.5, Use of sedative or hypnotics causing intoxication, harmful use (abuse), dependence, withdrawal or psychosis
F13.7-F13.9, Use of sedative or hypnotics causing late onset psychosis, other mental and behavioural disorders and unspecified behavioural disorders.
F14.0-F14.5, Use of cocaine causing intoxication, harmful use (abuse), dependence, withdrawal or psychosis
F14.7-F14.9, Use of cocaine causing late onset psychosis, other mental and behavioural disorders and unspecified behavioural disorders.
F15.0-F15.5, Use of caffeine causing intoxication, harmful use (abuse), dependence, withdrawal or psychosis
F15.7-F15.9, Use of caffeine causing late onset psychosis, other mental and behavioural disorders and unspecified behavioural disorders.
F16.0-F16.5, Use of hallucinogens causing intoxication, harmful use (abuse), dependence, withdrawal or psychosis
F16.7-F16.9, Use of hallucinogens causing late onset psychosis, other mental and behavioural disorders and unspecified behavioural disorders.
F17.0, Use of tobacco causing intoxication
F17.3-F17.5, Use of tobacco causing withdrawal or psychosis
F17.7-F17.9, Use of tobacco causing late onset psychosis, other mental and behavioural disorders and unspecified behavioural disorders.
F18.0-F18.5, Use of volatile solvents causing intoxication, harmful use (abuse), dependence, withdrawal or psychosis
F18.7-F18.9, Use of volatile solvents causing late onset psychosis, other mental and behavioural disorders and unspecified behavioural disorders.
F19.0-F19.5, Use of multiple drugs and other psychoactive substances causing intoxication, harmful use (abuse), dependence, withdrawal or psychosis
F19.7-F19.9, Use of multiple drugs and other psychoactive substances causing late onset psychosis, other mental and behavioural disorders and unspecified behavioural disorders.
G21.1, Other drug-induced secondary Parkinsonism;
G24.0, Drug-induced dystonia;
G25.1, Drug-induced tremor;
G25.4, Drug-induced chorea;
G25.6, Drug-induced tics and other tics of organic origin;
G44.4, Drug-induced headache, not elsewhere classified;
G62.0, Drug-induced polyneuropathy;
G72.0, Drug-induced myopathy;
I95.2, Hypotension due to drugs;
J70.2, Acute drug-induced interstitial lung disorders;
J70.3, Chronic drug-induced interstitial lung disorders;
J70.4, Drug-induced interstitial lung disorder, unspecified;
L10.5, Drug-induced pemphigus;
L27.0, Generalized skin eruption due to drugs and medicaments;
L27.1, Localized skin eruption due to drugs and medicaments;
M10.2, Drug-induced gout;
M32.0, Drug-induced systemic lupus erythematosus;
M80.4, Drug-induced osteoporosis with pathological fracture;
M81.4, Drug-induced osteoporosis;
M83.5, Other drug-induced osteomalacia in adults;
M87.1, Osteonecrosis due to drugs;
R78.1, Finding of opiate drug in blood;
R78.2, Finding of cocaine in blood;
R78.3, Finding of hallucinogen in blood;
R78.4, Finding of other drugs of addictive potential in blood;
R78.5, Finding of psychotropic drug in blood;
X40-X44, Accidental poisoning by and exposure to drugs, medicaments and biological substances;
X60-X64, Intentional self-poisoning (suicide) by and exposure to drugs, medicaments and biological substances;
X85, Assault (homicide) by drugs, medicaments and biological substances; and
Y10-Y14, Poisoning by and exposure to drugs, medicaments and biological substances, undetermined intent.

Drug-induced causes exclude accidents, homicides, and other causes indirectly related to drug use. Also excluded are newborn deaths associated with mother’s drug use.

Poisoning by opioids tabulation

The data presented for opioid-induced deaths in this publication is a modified version of the drug-induced deaths tabulation created by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To capture opioid-induced deaths, the following poisoning codes present at the multiple cause of death level were used in combination with the CDC drug-induced underlying cause of death tabulation.

Causes of death attributable to opioids include ICD-10 codes present at the multiple cause of death level:

T40.0, Opium;
T40.1, Heroin;
T40.2, Other opioids (e.g. Codeine, Morphine);
T40.3, Methadone;
T40.4, Other synthetic narcotics (e.g. Pethidine); and
T40.6, Other and unspecified narcotics.

Alcohol-induced deaths tabulation 

Causes of death attributable to alcohol-induced mortality include ICD-10 codes:

E24.4, Alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome; 
F10, Mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use; 
G31.2, Degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol; 
G62.1, Alcoholic polyneuropathy; 
G72.1, Alcoholic myopathy; 
I42.6, Alcoholic cardiomyopathy; 
K29.2, Alcoholic gastritis; 
K70, Alcoholic liver disease; 
K85.2 Alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis;
K86.0, Alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis; 
R78.0, Finding of alcohol in blood; 
X45, Accidental poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; 
X65, Intentional self-poisoning by and exposure to alcohol; and 
Y15, Poisoning by and exposure to alcohol, undetermined intent.

Alcohol-induced causes exclude accidents, homicides, and other causes indirectly related to alcohol use. This category also excludes newborn deaths associated with maternal alcohol use.

1. Miniño AM, Heron MP, Murphy SL, Kochankek, KD. Deaths: Final Data for 2004. National vital statistics reports; vol 55 no 19. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2007.

Deaths from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) tabulation

Causes of death attributable to Non-Communicable Diseases include ICD-10 codes:

C00-C97, D45-D46, D47.1, D47.3-D47.5, Cancers;
I00-I99, Cardiovascular diseases;
E10-E14, Diabetes; and
J30-J98, Chronic lower respiratory diseases.

1. World Health Organization (WHO). Non-Communicable Diseases Global Monitoring Framework: Indicator Definitions and Specifications. Note: The WHO Cancer tabulation for NCDs includes only C00-C97. To be consistent with ABS Causes of Death reporting additional cancers codes (D45-D46, D47.1, D47.3-D47.5) have been included for this publication when analysing cancer related NCDs.

Technical note - updates to Iris coding software: implementing WHO updates and improvements in coding processes

Since 2014 the national Causes of Death dataset has been coded using Iris, a software program which automates the assignment of codes from the International Classification of Diseases 10th Revision (ICD-10) to death records, and assists in the identification of an underlying cause of death. Iris is developed and maintained by the German Institute of Medical Documentation and Information (DIMDI), who produce regular software updates, as well as implement World Health Organization (WHO) updates to the ICD-10 that are embedded within the Iris system.

In order to recognise and statistically represent changing health trends and advances in medical science research, specialist committees within WHO meet annually to review and recommend updates to the ICD-10. Updates can be minor, consisting of spelling updates or small updates to medical terminology within existing codes, or they can be major, consisting of reclassification of medical conditions to different codes, updates to coding rules or the addition or deletion of codes. To maintain consistency in statistical outputs major changes are only implemented on 3 year cycles.

For the coding of 2018 cause of death data the ABS implemented a new version of Iris software (version 5.4.0) which incorporates a new underlying cause of death processing system called the Multicausal and Unicausal Selection Engine (MUSE). Like previous versions of Iris, MUSE assigns codes to medical terms on the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) and applies WHO coding rules to appropriately code and modify multiple causes of death and select an underlying cause of death. This version of Iris also incorporates the most recent major updates to the ICD-10 (2016 coding year updates). The implementation of MUSE, alongside the updates to the ICD-10, align the Australian mortality data up to date with international best practice. The ABS have also implemented extra validation processes with the implementation of MUSE to ensure maximum alignment with WHO guidelines and coding rules.

Key statistical measures need to be considered when interpreting time series data with administrative changes made to processing.

There are generally four ways in which output can change: 

  1. A true change in disease or external event.
  2. Administrative changes such as changes to certification or events at point of registration.
  3. Updates to the WHO ICD-10 classification, Volume 2 coding rules and application of decision tables.
  4. Process changes, such as the implementation of new software or changes to local coding practice.
     

Understandably, the focus of health policy is on true changes in patterns of mortality. The ABS uses explanatory notes to highlight administrative and process changes to enable better interpretation of trends in data over time. 

This technical note will provide an overview of software changes, WHO updates and local coding changes to assist users in interpretting changes in the 2018 dataset. The information focusses on factors influencing the selection of underlying causes of death, although the multiple cause dataset is also acknowledged as an integral tool in tracking changes over time.

Chapter I, certain infectious and parasitic diseases (A00-B99)

Updates to WHO guidelines have resulted in changes to causes located in Chapter I, Certain infectious and parasitic diseases:

A40 Streptococcal sepsis - A41 Other sepsis: A common certification issue is the recording of an infection such as sepsis in Part 1 of a death certificate with no preceding cause, with chronic conditions listed on the same certificate in Part 2. Previously, when sepsis was certified in Part 1 of the MCCD and selected chronic conditions were reported in Part 2 of the MCCD, the selection rules did not provide a mechanism for the condition in Part 2 to be selected as the underlying cause. An update to selection rules now allows more chronic conditions, such as neoplasms coded to (C00-C80), in Part 2 to be selected as the underlying cause when sepsis appears in Part 1. In particular, this has resulted in an increase in deaths assigned to Chapter II Neoplasms and a subsequent decrease in the number of deaths assigned to A40-A41 as an underlying cause.

A90 Dengue fever [classical dengue] and A91 Dengue hemorrhagic fever: These codes are no longer valid for causes of death outputs. All deaths previously assigned to A90 or A91 will now be assigned to A97 Dengue

A97 Dengue: This is a new code and includes multiple fourth digit options for coding. A97 replaces deaths previously assigned to A90 and A91.

B94 Sequelae of other and unspecified infectious and parasitic disease: Previously, if an infectious disease was reported with a duration of greater than one year, the sequelae code was assigned (B94). The processing of time intervals as they relate to infectious diseases now means that B94 is only assigned when late or residual effects of the infection are reported. This has resulted in a decrease in deaths assigned to B94.

Chapter II, neoplasms (C00-D48)

Updates to WHO guidelines and ABS coding practices have resulted in an increase in deaths assigned to Chapter II Neoplasms.

There are now more causal relationships between acute conditions, including Bacterial sepsis (A40-A41), and Malignant neoplasms (C00-C80). Previously, when sepsis was mentioned in Part 1 of the MCCD and a malignant neoplasm was mentioned in Part 2, the sepsis would commonly be assigned as the underlying cause of death. In accordance with updated decision tables, there are now additional relationships by which neoplasms falling within C00-C80 can be selected as the underlying cause of death when mentioned in Part 2. This has resulted in an increase in deaths assigned to Chapter II Neoplasms and a subsequent decrease in the number of deaths assigned to A40-A41 as an underlying cause.

Chapter V, mental and behavioural disorders (F00-F99) 

F05 Delirium, not induced by alcohol and other psychoactive substances: Improvements in coding practices have resulted in a decrease in deaths coded to F05. When F05 is mentioned on the MCCD the decision tables do not provide a mechanism by which the causal condition of the delirium can be chosen as the underlying cause of death. The ABS mortality team have implemented improved coding and validation processes to ensure the causal condition of the delirium is now selected as the underlying cause. There is a notable decrease in deaths coded to delirium as an underlying cause of death as a result of this change.

Chapter VI, diseases of the nervous system (G00-G99) 

G23 Other degenerative diseases of basal ganglia: A new fourth-digit code, G233 Multiple system atrophy, cerebellar type [MSA-C], has been added to this category which has resulted in an increase in deaths assigned to G23. Most deaths assigned to G233 were previously coded to G903 Multiple system degeneration.

G83 Other paralytic syndromes: A new fourth-digit code, G835 Locked-in syndrome, has been added to this category. There was 1 death assigned to G835 in 2018.

G90 Disorders of autonomic nervous system: The fourth-digit code, G903 Multiple system degeneration has been removed as a valid code for cause of death coding. This has resulted in a decrease in deaths coded to G90. Causes previously coded to G903 are now coded to G238 Other specified degenerative diseases of basal ganglia.

Chapter IX, diseases of the circulatory system (I00-I99)

I67 Other cerebrovascular diseases: Changes in coding processes have been made in relation to I67. Previously, if Chronic cerebrovascular disease was reported with a duration of greater than one year, the sequelae code was assigned (I69). Further, a note under I69 dictates that Chronic cerebrovascular disease is to be coded to I60-I67. Changes have been implemented resulting in the sequelae codes only being used if late or residual effects of the disease are reported. This change has resulted in an increase in deaths assigned to I67 and a subsequent decrease in deaths assigned to I69.

I69 Sequelae of cerebrovascular disease: Changes in coding processes have been made in relation to I69. Previously, if Chronic cerebrovascular disease was reported with a duration of greater than one year, the sequelae code was assigned (I69). Further, a note under I69 dictates that Chronic cerebrovascular disease is to be coded to I60-I67. Changes have been implemented resulting in the sequelae codes only being used if late or residual effects of the disease are reported. This change has resulted in a decrease in deaths assigned to I69 and a subsequent increase in deaths assigned to I67.

Chapter XII, diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue (L00-L99)

L98 Other disorders of skin and subcutaneous tissue, not elsewhere classified: A new fourth-digit code, L987 Excessive and redundant skin and subcutaneous tissue, has been added to this category. No conditions were assigned to this code in 2018.

Chapter XIII, diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (M00-M99)

M19 Other arthrosis: A relationship between J18 Pneumonia, organism unspecified and M19 Other arthrosis has been removed in 2018. When J18 was reported in Part 1 of the MCCD and M19 in Part 2, previous relationships allowed M19 to be chosen as the underlying cause of death. The removal of this relationship no longer assigns M19 as the underlying cause in these cases. This has resulted in a decrease in deaths assigned to M19.

Chapter XV, pregnancy, childbirth and puerperium (O00-O99)

O94 Sequelae of complication of pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium: This is a new code in 2016. O94 is used for morbidity coding only and therefore has not affected output in this publication.

Chapter XVI, certain conditions originating in the perinatal period (P00-P99)

P91 Other disturbances of cerebral status of newborn: This category has a new fourth-digit code, P917 Acquired hydrocephalus of newborn. No conditions were assigned to this code in 2018.

Chapter XX, external causes of morbidity and mortality (V01-Y98)

W26 Contact with other sharp object(s): There are now multiple fourth-digit options for W26. Previously, when a death occurred as a result of W26, there was no option to further specify the type of sharp object involved. ABS mortality coders are now required to choose from multiple fourth-digit options to further specify the death:

  • W260 Contact with knife, sword or dagger
  • W268 Contact with other sharp object(s), not elsewhere classified
  • W269 Contact with unspecified sharp object(s)

As a result, deaths previously assigned to W26 will now be assigned a fourth-digit during coding. No conditions were assigned to W260-W269 in 2018.

Technical note - causes of death revisions, 2016 final data

This note was released on 9 April 2020

Overview

1  Deaths that are referred to a coroner can take time to be fully investigated. To account for this, the ABS has implemented a revisions process for those deaths where coronial investigations remained open at the time a preliminary cause of death was assigned. Data are deemed preliminary when first published, revised when published the following year and final when published after a second year. This technical note focusses specifically on final data for 2016 coroner-certified deaths.

2  The revisions process has been applied to all reference periods from 2006 onwards. Revisions are one of two measures implemented to enable timely data to be released on coroner-certified deaths (see Explanatory Notes 54-62 for further information). The second measure, referred to as 'open coding', ensures that all available documentation is taken into account when assigning a cause of death to coronial cases that are yet to be finalised. The combination of these two measures, along with ongoing enhancements in the timeliness and completeness of documentation on the National Coronial Information System (NCIS), have resulted in significant improvements to the quality of preliminary Causes of Death data. 

3  There are three main improvements to the Causes of Death data which are gained through the revisions process. Firstly, for deaths from natural causes a more specified condition may be identified. For example, a death may be coded to a condition such as cardiac arrest at preliminary coding, but with the later addition of an autopsy report, an underlying ischaemic heart condition could be identified. Secondly, for deaths from external causes (accidents, assaults and suicides) more information might be provided on mechanism. For example, a death coded to an unspecified accident with a fracture of hip, may later be found to have been caused by a fall down steps. Lastly, external causes may also have the intent of death updated through revisions. For example, a drug overdose where the intent of death was not determined at preliminary coding, may be updated to an intentional drug overdose when a coronial finding has been made.

Changes to Cause of Death processing and revisions

4 Until the 2014 reference period, the ABS released the annual Causes of Death dataset 15 months after the end of each reference period (i.e. data for the 2014 reference period was published in March 2016). The 2015 release of Causes of Death, Australia was released 6 months earlier, representing a significant change in processing of the national mortality dataset. 

5 Bringing forward the release of Causes of Death data meant that preliminary coding of coroner-certified deaths occurred approximately 6 months earlier than in previous years. Given that the timeliness of report availability on the NCIS is critical to the ABS's ability to assign specific cause of death codes, considerable analysis was undertaken to ensure the preliminary dataset would be of sufficient quality to be fit for purpose. See Technical Note 1 A More Timely Annual Collection: Changes to ABS Processes in the 2015 publication.

6  With earlier release of preliminary data, there is now a period of 30 months between the release of preliminary and final data. The table below shows the impact of this changed revisions process at the International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision (ICD-10) chapter level. The continued earlier release of data resulted in more deaths assigned at preliminary coding to the Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (Symptoms and signs) (R00-R99) chapter for the 2016 reference period. Consequently, a larger number of deaths have been reassigned from R00-R99 to other chapters over the 2016 revisions period. The redistribution of deaths to more specified ICD-10 codes is discussed in more detail below.

Causes of death revisions for 2012 to 2016 - changes from preliminary to final data by percentage, by selected ICD-10 chapter, all certified deaths (a)(b)

 20122013201420152016
Cause of death and ICD-10 code%%%%%
Certain infectious and parasitic diseases (A00-B99)
0.0
0.2
0.2
0.5
0.5
Neoplasms (C00-D48)
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.1
0.1
Diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs and certain disorders involving the immune mechanism (D50-D89)
0.0
0.4
0.0
0.6
0.2
Endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases (E00-E90)
0.0
0.1
0.2
0.8
0.3
Mental and behavioural disorders (F00-F99)
-0.1
-0.1
0.0
0.1
0.1
Diseases of the nervous system (G00-G99)
0.2
0.2
0.2
0.6
0.2
Diseases of the circulatory system (I00-I99)
0.2
0.0
0.0
0.6
0.5
Diseases of the respiratory system (J00-J99)
0.0
0.1
0.1
0.4
0.3
Diseases of the digestive system (K00-K93)
0.0
0.0
0.2
1.0
0.5
Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue (L00-L99)
-0.3
0.0
0.2
0.8
0.4
Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (M00-M99)
-0.1
0.3
0.2
1.2
3.1
Diseases of the genitourinary system (N00-N99)
0.0
-0.1
0.0
0.5
0.5
Certain conditions originating in the perinatal period (P00-P96)
0.4
-0.5
0.6
0.5
0.5
Congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities (Q00-Q99)
0.4
0.3
1.0
1.4
1.2
Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99)
-11.2
-5.5
-11.3
-34.3
-23.8
External causes of morbidity and mortality (V01-Y98)
0.7
0.4
0.9
0.8
-0.6
a. Excludes deaths coded to H00-H59, H60-H95, and O00-O99 as these causes of death account for small amount of deaths and changes through revisions are minimal.
b. Since 2015 the release of Causes of Death, Australia has occurred 6 months earlier, representing a significant change in processing of the national mortality dataset. For further information regarding changes to ABS coding processes, see A More Timely Annual Collection: Changes to ABS Processes (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2015 (cat. no. 3303.0).
 

7 The table below provides the counts of deaths by ICD-10 chapter for the 2016 reference period across the revisions process. Revisions are most likely to result in decreases in the number of deaths assigned to Symptoms and signs (R00-R99) with corresponding increases in other chapters.

8 Deaths which are originally coded to the Symptoms and signs (R00-R99) chapter can be reassigned to specific natural or external causes of death. The majority of those reassigned are subsequently found to be deaths from natural causes (76.7%), with Diseases of the circulatory system (I00-I99) being the most common natural cause. Of those reassigned to external causes of death, 18 were deaths due to intentional self-harm (suicide) and 39 were due to Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44).

Causes of death revisions for 2016 - preliminary, revised and final, by selected ICD-10 chapter, all certified deaths (a)(b)

 2016 reference yearChange (preliminary to final)
 PRF  
Cause of death and ICD-10 codenononono%
Certain infectious and parasitic diseases (A00-B99)
2818
2829
2832
14
0.5
Neoplasms (C00-D48)
46307
46325
46331
24
0.1
Diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs and certain disorders involving the immune mechanism (D50-D89)
490
491
491
1
0.2
Endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases (E00-E90)
6750
6767
6770
20
0.3
Mental and behavioural disorders (F00-F99)
9931
9935
9940
9
0.1
Diseases of the nervous system (G00-G99)
8794
8805
8814
20
0.2
Diseases of the circulatory system (I00-I99)
43963
44157
44186
223
0.5
Diseases of the respiratory system (J00-J99)
14783
14822
14829
46
0.3
Diseases of the digestive system (K00-K93)
5753
5773
5784
31
0.5
Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue (L00-L99)
532
533
534
2
0.4
Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (MOO-M99)
1371
1376
1413
42
3.1
Diseases of the genitourinary system (N00-N99)
3458
3463
3475
17
0.5
Certain conditions originating in the perinatal period (P00-P96)
550
553
553
3
0.5
Congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities (Q00-Q99)
587
591
594
7
1.2
Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99)
1651
1308
1258
-393
-23.8
External causes of morbidity and mortality (V01-Y98)
10736
10746
10670
-66
-0.6
Total(a)
158504
158504
158504
0
0.0
a. Includes deaths coded to H00-H59, H60-H95, and O00-O99.
b. This table includes both doctor and coroner-certified deaths.
 

Impact of revisions - underlying cause of death

9 The expected outcome of the revisions process is to improve data quality. Enhancements to underlying cause of death data quality may include updates to either mechanism or intent or identifying an underlying cause where not previously possible. While the revisions process has a minimal impact on statistical output at the chapter level of the ICD-10 (with the exception of R00-R99), data improvements become more apparent when considering movements within individual chapters.

10 The table below shows selected data for coroner-certified deaths only at the sub-chapter level. There were key data improvements for specification of mechanism for external causes of deaths over the 2016 revisions period. There were 263 deaths where intent was coded but mechanism was unspecified at preliminary coding. Through the revisions process a mechanism was identified for 163 (62.0%) of these deaths. The majority of these records had no change in intent, but were assigned a more specific mechanism. For example, a suicide death where the mechanism was unspecified at preliminary coding (Intentional self-harm by unspecified means (X84) may be reassigned to a suicidal drowning (Intentional self-harm by drowning (X71)) during the revisions process when an autopsy becomes available for analysis.

11 The table below demonstrates that for deaths which are certified by a coroner, the reduction in the number of cases assigned to Other ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99) decreased by 39.8% over the full revisions process.

Causes of death revisions for 2016 - preliminary, revised and final, by selected causes of death, coroner-certified deaths (a)

 2016 reference yearChange (preliminary to final)
 PRF  
Cause of death and ICD-10 codenononono%
Other ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99)
1006
659
606
-400
-39.8
Unspecified mechanism (X59, X84, Y09)
263
124
100
-163
-62.0
Accidental exposure to other specified factors (X59)
203
89
78
-125
-61.6
Intentional self-harm by unspecified means (X84)
26
12
7
-19
-73.1
Assault by unspecified means (Y09)
34
23
15
-19
-55.9
Event of undetermined intent (Y10-Y34)
140
122
115
-25
-17.9
a. This table includes coroner-certified deaths only.
 

12 The table below shows changes at the sub-chapter level for the 2016 reference period, with a focus on the External causes of morbidity and mortality (V01-Y98) chapter.

Notable increases in deaths due to external causes over the full revisions process include:

  • Falls (W00-W19) increased by 63 deaths. For many of the deaths reassigned to a fall, the type of injury was known at preliminary coding (e.g. neck of femur fracture), yet the mechanism was unknown (e.g. the broken hip was caused by an unspecified accident). Over the full revisions process, additional information about the nature of the mechanism became available allowing these records to be reassigned to a fall (e.g. the broken hip was identified to be due to a fall down stairs)
    • Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44) increased by 37 deaths. Many of the deaths reassigned to an Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44) were originally assigned to Ill-defined causes of mortality (R99). Drug-induced deaths require intensive investigations to accurately determine not only the cause and manner in which the death occurred, but also the attribution of a drug(s) to the death. Over time, as investigations are finalised, more information on the NCIS becomes available allowing these deaths to be reassigned to Accidental drug poisonings (X40-X44)
    • Intentional self-harm (X60-X84, Y870) increased by 43 deaths. Of these 43 deaths, the majority were reassigned from Accidental drug poisonings (X40-X44), Undetermined intent (Y10-Y34) and Ill-defined causes of mortality (R99)
    • Intentional drug poisoning (X60-X64) increased by 22 deaths. Of these 22 deaths, the majority were reassigned due to updated intent information becoming available (especially the final coronial finding). The highest number of Intentional drug poisonings (X60-X64) were reassigned from Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44)
    • Car occupant injured in transport accident (V40-V49) increased by 20 deaths. The majority of these deaths were reassigned as more specificity surrounding the circumstances of the death became available. Deaths were predominantly reassigned from Unspecified motor vehicle and transport accidents (V89, V98-V99) and Exposure to unspecified factor (X59)
    • Assault (X85-Y09) increased by 18 deaths. Of these 18 deaths, the majority were reassigned due to updated intent information becoming available. Deaths were predominantly reassigned from Ill-defined causes of mortality (R99) and Undetermined intent (Y10-Y34)
       

    Causes of death revisions for 2016 - preliminary, revised and final, by ICD-10 selected causes, all certified deaths (a)(b)(c)

     2016Change (preliminary to final)
     PRF  
    Cause of death and ICD-10 codenononono%
    Transport accidents (V01-V99)
    1453
    1467
    1469
    16
    1.1
    Car occupant injured in transport accident (V40-V49)
    751
    770
    771
    20
    2.7
    Other land transport accidents (V80-V89)
    71
    57
    54
    -17
    -23.9
    Other external causes of accidental injury (W00-X59)
    5705
    5684
    5713
    8
    0.1
    Falls (W00-W19)
    2666
    2719
    2729
    63
    2.4
    Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44)
    1289
    1311
    1326
    37
    2.9
    Exposure to unspecified factor (X59) (a)
    1004
    893
    885
    -119
    -11.9
    Intentional self-harm (X60-X84, Y870) (b)
    2866
    2911
    2909
    43
    1.5
    Intentional drug poisoning (X60-X64)
    411
    439
    433
    22
    5.4
    Intentional self-harm by hanging or suffocation (X70)
    1583
    1590
    1596
    13
    0.8
    Intentional self-harm by unspecified means (X84)
    26
    12
    7
    -19
    -73.1
    Assault (X85-Y09)
    244
    254
    262
    18
    7.4
    Event of undetermined intent (Y10-Y34)
    141
    123
    116
    -25
    -17.7
    a. Deaths assigned to Exposure to unspecified factor (X59) are more likely to be certified by a doctor. As such, % change shown in this table is different compared to the table above.
    b. Care should be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See Explanatory Notes 91-100.
    c. This table consists of both doctor and coroner-certified deaths. Figures presented in this table may show differences compared to the table above.
     

    13 Various improvements to the availability and timeliness of national mortality information have been undertaken over several years. One major improvement undertaken by the NCIS is the more timely upload of reports and information for open coroner cases. This information can then be used at an earlier point by the ABS to improve open coding data quality. Earlier availability of reports can reduce the number of deaths from Ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99) present in the dataset at preliminary coding. The improved timeliness in report attachment on the NCIS was a key factor in enabling the ABS to bring forward the publication of annual causes of death data. A comparison of 2014, 2015 and 2016 final Ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99) counts indicate a substantial reduction, from 956 in 2014 to 722 in 2015, then to 606 in 2016.

    14 There are some specific causes of death that may be more impacted by the changed revisions process. These include Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44), Intentional drug poisoning (X60-X64) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (R95). Deaths from these causes require intensive investigations to accurately determine the cause and manner in which the death occurred. Therefore some key reports may not be available on the NCIS when preliminary coding of these deaths occur. These deaths are particularly sensitive to the revisions process in that more detailed information regarding the context of the death is often gained over time as information from investigations becomes available on the NCIS. 

    15 The number of deaths assigned to SIDS (R95) increased by 10 deaths between preliminary and final coding. Of these 10 deaths, 9 were previously assigned to Ill-defined causes of mortality (R99). While revised data captures a significant proportion of SIDS deaths, the rules for classifying these deaths are influenced by specific terminology used in coronial findings. Data users should consider combining deaths coded to SIDS in conjunction with infant deaths coded to Ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99) when seeking to understand how many sudden unexplained deaths in infants occur in total. 

    16 Over the revisions process there was an increase of 62 drug-induced deaths (includes all intents: Accidental (X40-X44), Intentional (X60-X64) and Undetermined (Y10-Y14). Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44) contributed the largest increase across intent types for drug poisonings over the 2016 revisions process, accounting for 59.7% of the increase. 

    17 The process for determining that a death was caused by Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44) is complex as multiple factors such as drug type, intent and presence of pre-existing natural disease need to be considered. Just under half (47.6%) of the deaths reassigned to an Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44) were initially coded to Ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99). These deaths typically did not have toxicology and/or pathology reports available on the NCIS at the time of preliminary coding. A further 19.5% of those reassigned to this category were initially coded to Intentional drug poisoning (X60-X64) followed by Undetermined drug poisoning (Y10-Y14) (12.8%). 

    18 Determining deaths from Intentional drug poisoning (X60-X64) is similarly complex. Over one-third (37.9%) of deaths reassigned to an Intentional drug poisoning (X60-X64) were coded at preliminary as Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44) deaths. These deaths typically had only an initial police report available at preliminary coding, where details on the intent of death can be unclear. A further 20.7% of reassigned Intentional drug poisoning (X60-X64) deaths were initially coded to Ill-defined causes of mortality (R99). These deaths typically did not have police, toxicology and/or pathology reports available on NCIS at the time of preliminary coding.

    Impact of revisions - associated causes of death

    19 The revisions process has traditionally focused on improving specificity of the underlying cause of death. More recently, there has been growing interest in associated cause statistics which can provide a more complete picture of the diseases and/or circumstances that contributed to a death. Associated causes include the type of injuries sustained by a deceased person, drug type in a drug-induced death (e.g. heroin, cannabis), chronic disease (e.g. cancer) and mental and behavioural disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety). The ABS has maximised the use of improved report attachment on the NCIS to enhance associated cause statistics through the revisions process. Analysis of associated causes of death can better enable targeted policy and prevention initiatives, especially for those deaths which are deemed preventable. For this reason, the revisions process typically focusses on associated cause of death enhancements for two key areas - drug specification in drug-induced deaths and mental and behavioural disorders implicated in deaths from external causes.

    Changes to drug types for drug poisoning deaths

    20 There are multiple complex factors which need to be considered when a death is certified as due to a drug poisoning. The timing between the death and toxicology testing can influence the levels and types of drugs detected, making it difficult to determine the true level of a drug at the time of death. Individual tolerance levels may also vary considerably depending on multiple factors, including sex, body mass and a person’s previous exposure to a drug. Consideration of contextual factors around the death must also be considered such as pre-existing natural disease and reports from friends and families regarding the circumstances surrounding death. For these reasons, the certification of a death as a drug poisoning can take significant time to complete, making these deaths particularly sensitive to the revisions process.

    21 Policies directed at reducing deaths due to drug poisoning employ a variety of strategies depending on drug type. Information regarding the type of drug(s) in a drug poisoning can often depend on the availability of an autopsy, toxicology or coronial finding report. When these reports are not available, the drug type is unknown and coded to Other and unspecified drugs, medicaments and biological substances (Unspecified drug) (T509). Importantly, deaths coded with an Unspecified drug (T509) are still counted as a drug poisonings at preliminary output, but they may be enhanced with more specific information about drug type via the revisions process. 

    22 From preliminary to final, the number of drug-induced deaths in 2016 where drug type was not specified (T509) decreased from 110 to 4. As a result there was an increase in the number of specified drug types (see table below) with Benzodiazepines (T424) recording the largest increase (134 mentions) when analysed by single drug type. This was followed by Other and unspecified antipsychotics and neuroleptics (T435) (81 mentions) and Other and unspecified antidepressants (T432) (69 mentions).

    Changes to associated cause drug types for 2016 - preliminary, revised and final, coroner-certified deaths (a)

     2016 reference yearChange (preliminary to final)
     PRF  
    Cause of death and ICD-10 codenononono%
    Benzodiazepines (T424)
    662
    771
    796
    134
    20.2
    Other and unspecified antipsychotics and neuroleptics (T435)
    216
    283
    297
    81
    37.5
    Other and unspecified antidepressants (T432)
    276
    336
    345
    69
    25.0
    Other opioids (T402)
    550
    603
    613
    63
    11.5
    Psychostimulants with abuse potential (T436)
    362
    414
    422
    60
    16.6
    Cannabis (T407)
    132
    167
    179
    47
    35.6
    Tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants (T430)
    164
    191
    206
    42
    25.6
    Aminophenol derivatives (T391)
    165
    196
    204
    39
    23.6
    Heroin (T401)
    361
    397
    399
    38
    10.5
    Methadone (T403)
    208
    240
    245
    37
    17.8
    a. This table includes coroner-certified deaths only.
    b. Data in this table indicates the number of deaths with each specified drug recorded. Drug types are not mutually exclusive and deaths with multiple drugs present at will be included in more than one category. As a result, categories cannot be summed to obtain the total number of drug-induced deaths.
     

    Changes to associated causes for intentional self-harm and accidental drug poisonings

    23 Associated causes of death may provide important contextual information for deaths due to Intentional self-harm (X60-X84, Y870). At preliminary coding, 79.7% of suicides in 2016 had associated causes mentioned as contributory factors to death. Through the revisions process, this proportion increased to 84.0%. The table below shows the top 5 increases for associated causes of death as they relate to Intentional self-harm (X60-X84, Y870). The number of deaths with Mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use (F10-F19) mentioned as an associated cause increased by the most over the revisions period, followed by Mood disorders (F30-F39), including depression, and Suicide ideation (R458).

    Changes to intentional self-harm associated causes for 2016 - preliminary, revised and final, coroner-certified deaths (a)

     2016 reference yearChange (preliminary to final)
     PRF  
    Cause of death and ICD-10 codenononono%
    Mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use (F10-F19)
    668
    843
    870
    202
    30.2%
    Mood disorders (F30-F39)
    1135
    1318
    1334
    199
    17.5%
    Suicide ideation (R458)
    817
    980
    1013
    196
    24.0%
    Anxiety and stress-related disorders (F40-F48)
    327
    447
    465
    138
    42.2%
    Findings of drugs and other substances, not normally found in blood (R78)
    459
    529
    568
    109
    23.7%
    a. This table includes coroner-certified deaths only.
     

    24 Associated causes of death may also provide critical insights into deaths due to Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44). The table below shows the top 5 increases for associated causes of death as they relate to Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44). As additional evidence and documentation was added to the NCIS there were 130 accidental drug overdoses where a Mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use (F10-F19), such as addiction or chronic substance misuse, was identified. Mood disorders (F30-F39) were identified as being a factor in 69 accidental drug-induced deaths via the revisions process and anxiety and stress-related disorders (F40-F49) were identified as a factor in 49 deaths.

    Changes to accidental drug poisoning associated causes for 2016 - preliminary, revised and final, coroner-certified deaths (a)

     2016 reference yearChange (preliminary to final)
     PRF  
    Cause of death and ICD-10 codenononono%
    Mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use (F10-F19)
    588
    700
    718
    130
    22.1
    Mood disorders (F30-F3
    263
    313
    331
    68
    25.9
    Anxiety and stress-related disorders (F40-F48)
    136
    175
    185
    49
    36.0
    Suicide ideation (R458)
    52
    80
    86
    34
    65.4
    Schizophrenia, schizotypal and delusional disorders (F20-F29)
    85
    100
    106
    21
    24.7
    Chronic pain (R522)
    56
    71
    77
    21
    37.5
    a. This table includes coroner-certified deaths only.

    Technical note - causes of death revisions, 2017 revised data

    This note was released on 9 April, 2020

    Overview

    1  Deaths that are referred to a coroner can take time to be fully investigated. To account for this, the ABS has implemented a revisions process for those deaths where coronial investigations remained open at the time a preliminary cause of death was assigned. Data are deemed preliminary when first published, revised when published the following year and final when published after a second year. This technical note focusses specifically on revised data for 2017 coroner-certified deaths.

     2  The revisions process has been applied to all reference periods from 2006 onwards. Revisions are one of two measures implemented to enable timely data to be released on coroner-certified deaths (see Explanatory Notes 54-62 for further information). The second measure, referred to as 'open coding', ensures that all available documentation is taken into account when assigning a cause of death to coronial cases that are yet to be finalised. The combination of these two measures, along with ongoing enhancements in the timeliness and completeness of documentation on the National Coronial Information System (NCIS), have resulted in significant improvements to the quality of preliminary Causes of Death data. 

     3  There are three main improvements to the Causes of Death data which are gained through the revisions process. Firstly, for deaths from natural causes a more specified condition may be identified. For example, a death may be coded to a condition such as cardiac arrest at preliminary coding, but with the later addition of an autopsy report, an underlying ischaemic heart condition could be identified. Secondly, for deaths from external causes (accidents, assaults and suicides) more information might be provided on mechanism. For example, a death coded to an unspecified accident with a fracture of hip, may later be found to have been caused by a fall down steps. Lastly, external causes may also have the intent of death updated through revisions. For example, a drug overdose where the intent of death was not determined at preliminary coding, may be updated to an intentional drug overdose when a coronial finding has been made.

    Changes to cause of death processing and revisions

    4 Until the 2014 reference period, the ABS released the annual Causes of Death dataset 15 months after the end of each reference period (i.e. data for the 2014 reference period was published in March 2016). The 2015 release of Causes of Death, Australia was released 6 months earlier, representing a significant change in processing of the national mortality dataset. 

    5 Bringing forward the release of Causes of Death data meant that preliminary coding of coroner-certified deaths occurred approximately 6 months earlier than in previous years. Given that the timeliness of report availability on the NCIS is critical to the ABS's ability to assign specific cause of death codes, considerable analysis was undertaken to ensure the preliminary dataset would be of sufficient quality to be fit for purpose. See Technical Note 1 A More Timely Annual Collection: Changes to ABS Processes in the 2015 publication.

    6  With earlier release of preliminary data, there is now a period of 18 months between the release of preliminary and revised data. The table below shows the impact of this changed revisions process at the International Classification of Diseases, 10th revisions (ICD-10) chapter level. As anticipated, the magnitude of changes is the largest for deaths assigned to the Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (Symptoms and signs) (R00-R99) chapter, decreasing by 26.7% for the 2017 reference year. This is comparable to the decrease in 2015 (26.9%), the first year the publication was released 6 months earlier. The redistribution of deaths to more specified ICD-10 codes is discussed in detail below.

    Causes of death revisions for 2013 to 2017 - changes from preliminary to revised data by percentage, by selected ICD-10 chapter, all certified deaths (a)(b)

     20132014201520162017
    Cause of death and ICD-10 code%%%%%
    Certain infectious and parasitic diseases (A00-B99)
    0.2
    0.1
    0.4
    0.4
    0.5
    Neoplasms (C00-D48)
    0.0
    0.0
    0.0
    0.0
    0.1
    Diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs and certain disorders involving the immune mechanism (D50-D89)
    0.2
    0.0
    0.6
    0.2
    0.2
    Endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases (E00-E90)
    0.1
    0.1
    0.6
    0.3
    0.5
    Mental and behavioural disorders (F00-F99)
    0.0
    0.0
    0.1
    0.0
    0.0
    Diseases of the nervous system (G00-G99)
    0.1
    0.1
    0.4
    0.1
    0.2
    Diseases of the circulatory system (I00-I99)
    0.0
    0.0
    0.5
    0.4
    0.5
    Diseases of the respiratory system (J00-J99)
    0.0
    0.1
    0.4
    0.3
    0.4
    Diseases of the digestive system (K00-K93)
    -0.1
    0.1
    0.7
    0.3
    0.3
    Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue (L00-L99)
    0.0
    0.2
    0.2
    0.2
    0.0
    Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (M00-M99)
    0.2
    0.2
    0.3
    0.4
    2.7
    Diseases of the genitourinary system (N00-N99)
    -0.1
    0.0
    0.3
    0.1
    0.4
    Certain conditions originating in the perinatal period (P00-P96)
    -0.5
    0.0
    0.4
    0.5
    0.0
    Congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities (Q00-Q99)
    0.2
    0.5
    1.0
    0.7
    1.1
    Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99)
    -2.9
    -5.6
    -26.9
    -20.8
    -26.7
    External causes of morbidity and mortality (V01-Y98)
    0.3
    0.5
    0.8
    0.1
    0.4
    a. Excludes deaths coded to H00-H59, H60-H95, and O00-O99 as these causes of death account for small amount of deaths and changes through revisions are minimal.
    b. Since 2015 the release of Causes of Death, Australia has occurred 6 months earlier, representing a significant change in processing of the national mortality dataset. For further information regarding changes to ABS coding processes, see A More Timely Annual Collection: Changes to ABS Processes (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2015 (cat. no. 3303.0).
     

    7 The table below provides the counts of deaths by ICD-10 chapter for the 2017 reference period from preliminary to revised. Revisions are most likely to result in decreases in the number of deaths assigned to the Symptoms and signs (R00-R99) chapter with corresponding increases in other chapters.  

     8 Deaths which are originally coded to the Symptoms and signs (R00-R99) chapter can be reassigned to specific natural or external causes of death. The majority of those reassigned are subsequently found to be deaths from natural causes (70.7%), with Diseases of the circulatory system (I00-I99) being the most common natural cause. Of those reassigned to external causes of death, 20 were found to be suicides.

    Causes of death revisions for 2017 - preliminary and revised data, by selected ICD-10 chapter, all certified deaths (a)(b)

     2017 reference yearChange (preliminary to revised)
     PR  
    Cause of death and ICD-10 codenonono%
    Certain infectious and parasitic diseases (A00-B99)
             2,636
             2,650
                  14
    0.5
    Neoplasms (C00-D48)
           46,399
           46,433
                  34
    0.1
    Diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs and certain disorders involving the immune mechanism (D50-D89)
                537
                538
                    1
    0.2
    Endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases (E00-E90)
             6,820
             6,855
                  35
    0.5
    Mental and behavioural disorders (F00-F99)
           10,157
           10,162
                    5
    0.0
    Diseases of the nervous system (G00-G99)
             9,205
             9,222
                  17
    0.2
    Diseases of the circulatory system (I00-I99)
           43,477
           43,713
               236
    0.5
    Diseases of the respiratory system (J00-J99)
           16,203
           16,261
                  58
    0.4
    Diseases of the digestive system (K00-K93)
             5,930
             5,949
                  19
    0.3
    Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue (L00-L99)
                551
                551
                   0
    0.0
    Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (MOO-M99)
             1,401
             1,439
                  38
    2.7
    Diseases of the genitourinary system (N00-N99)
             3,698
             3,713
                  15
    0.4
    Certain conditions originating in the perinatal period (P00-P96)
                582
                582
                   0
    0.0
    Congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities (Q00-Q99)
                634
                641
                    7
    1.1
    Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified (R00-R99)
             1,938
             1,420
              -518
    -26.7
    External causes of morbidity and mortality (V01-Y98)
           10,709
           10,747
                  38
    0.4
    Total(a)
         160,909
         160,909
                   0
    0.0
    a. Includes deaths coded to H00-H59, H60-H95, and O00-O99.
    b. This table includes both doctor and coroner-certified deaths.
     

    Impact of revisions - underlying cause of death

    9 The expected outcome of the revisions process is to improve data quality. Enhancements to underlying cause data quality may include improved understanding of either mechanism or intent or identifying an underlying cause where not previously possible. While the revisions process has a minimal impact on statistical output at the chapter level of the ICD-10 (with the exception of R00-R99), data improvements become more apparent when considering movements within individual chapters.

    10 The table below shows data for coroner-certified deaths only at the sub-chapter level. There were key data improvements for specification of mechanism for external causes of deaths over the 2017 revisions period. There were 148 deaths where intent was coded but mechanism was unspecified at preliminary coding. Through the revisions process a mechanism was identified for 66 (44.6%) of these deaths. The majority of these records had no change in intent, but were assigned a more specific mechanism. For example, a suicide death where the mechanism was unspecified at preliminary coding (Intentional self-harm by unspecified means (X84)) may be reassigned to a suicidal drowning (Intentional self-harm by drowning (X71)) during the revisions process when an autopsy becomes available for analysis. Intentional self-harm by drowning (X71) during the revisions process when an autopsy becomes available for analysis. 

    11 The table below further demonstrates that the number of coroner-certified deaths assigned to Other ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99) decreased by 43.6% from preliminary to revised.

    Causes of death revisions for 2017 - preliminary and revised, by selected causes of death, coroner-certified deaths (a)

     2017 reference yearChange (prelim to revised)
     PR  
    Cause of death and ICD-10 codenonono%
    Other ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99)
    1199
    676
    -523
    -43.6
    Unspecified mechanism (X59, X84, Y09)
    148
    82
    -66
    -44.6
    Accidental exposure to unspecified factor (X59)
    114
    60
    -54
    -47.4
    Intentional self-harm by unspecified means (X84)
    19
    10
    -9
    -47.4
    Assault by unspecified means (Y09)
    15
    12
    -3
    -20.0
    Event of undetermined intent (Y10-Y34)
    209
    138
    -71
    -34.0
    a. This table includes coroner-certified deaths only.
     

    12 The table below provides information on changes at the sub-chapter level for the 2017 reference period, with a focus on the External causes of morbidity and mortality (V01-Y98) chapter.

    Notable increases in deaths due to external causes include:

    • Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44) increased by 98 deaths. Many of the deaths reassigned to an accidental drug poisoning death were originally assigned to Ill-defined causes of mortality (R99). Drug-induced deaths require intensive investigations to accurately determine not only the cause and manner in which the death occurred, but also the attribution of a drug(s) to the death. Over time, as investigations are finalised, more information on the NCIS becomes available allowing these deaths to be reassigned to an accidental drug poisoning.
    • Intentional self-harm (X60-X84, Y870) increased by 69 deaths. Of these 69 deaths the majority were reassigned due to updated intent information becoming available (especially the final coronial finding). Deaths were predominantly reassigned from Undetermined intent (Y10-Y34), Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44) and Other ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99).
    • Intentional drug poisoning (X60-X64) increased by 36 deaths. Of these 36 deaths the majority were reassigned due to updated intent information becoming available (especially the final coronial finding). Deaths were predominantly reassigned from Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44).
       

    Causes of death revisions for 2017 - preliminary and revised, by ICD-10 selected causes, all certified deaths (a)(b)(c)

     2017Change (preliminary to revised)
     PR  
    Cause of death and ICD-10 codenonono%
    Transport Accidents (V01-V99)
    1371
    1394
    23
    1.7
    Pedestrian injured in transport accident (V01-V09)
    187
    202
    15
    8
    Other external causes of accidental injury (W00-X59)
    5573
    5659
    86
    1.5
    Falls (W00-W19)
    2782
    2800
    18
    0.6
    Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44)
    1216
    1314
    98
    8.1
    Exposure to unspecified factor (X59) (b)
    938
    888
    -50
    -5.3
    Intentional self-harm (X60-X84, Y870) (a)
    3128
    3197
    69
    2.2
    Intentional drug poisoning (X60-X64)
    440
    476
    36
    8.2
    Intentional self-harm by hanging or suffocation (X70)
    1829
    1843
    14
    0.8
    Intentional self-harm by jumping from a high place (X80)
    159
    174
    15
    9.4
    Intentional self-harm by unspecified means (X84)
    19
    10
    -9
    -47.4
    Assault (X85-Y09)
    180
    189
    9
    5
    Event of undetermined intent (Y10-Y34)
    210
    139
    -71
    -33.8
    a. Care should be taken in interpreting figures relating to intentional self-harm. See Explanatory Notes 91-100.
    b. This table includes both doctor and coroner-certified deaths. Figures presented in this table may show differences from the table above.
    c. Deaths assigned to Exposure to unspecified factor (X59) are more likely to be certified by a doctor. As such, % change shown in this table differs from the table presented above.
     

    13 Various improvements to the national mortality system have been undertaken over several years. One major improvement undertaken by the NCIS is the more timely upload of reports and information for open coroner cases. This information can then be used at an earlier point by the ABS to improve open coding data quality. Specifically, earlier availability of reports can reduce the number Ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99) present in the dataset at preliminary coding. These improvements are now being reflected in the mortality dataset. A comparison of 2015 and 2017 preliminary R99 counts of coroner-certified deaths indicate a substantial reduction, from 1,427 in 2015 to 1,199 in 2017. 

    14 There are some specific causes of death that may be more impacted by the changed revisions process. These include Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44), Intentional drug poisoning (X60-X64) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (R95). Deaths from these causes require intensive investigations to accurately determine the cause and manner in which the death occurred. Therefore some key reports may not be available on the NCIS when preliminary coding of these deaths occurs. These deaths are particularly sensitive to the revisions process, in that more detailed information regarding the context of the death is often gained through revisions. 

    15 The number of deaths assigned to SIDS (R95) increased by 6 deaths between preliminary and revised coding. All 6 deaths were initially coded to Ill-defined causes of mortality (R99). While revised data captures a significant proportion of SIDS deaths, the rules for classifying these deaths are heavily influenced by specific terminology used in coronial findings. Data users should consider combining deaths coded to SIDS (R95) in conjunction with infant deaths coded to Ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99) when seeking to understand how many sudden unexplained deaths in infants occur in total. 

    16 Over the revisions process there was an increase of 100 drug-induced deaths (includes all intents: Accidental (X40-X44), Intentional (X60-X64) and Undetermined (Y10-Y14)). Accidental drug poisonings (X40-X44) contributed the largest increase across intent types for drug poisonings over the 2017 revisions process. 

    17 The process for determining that a death was caused by an Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44) is complex, as multiple factors such as drug type, intent and presence of pre-existing natural disease need to be considered. Of the deaths reassigned to Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44), approximately 62.3% were initially coded to Other ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99). A further 23.1% of those reassigned to this category were initially coded to Undetermined drug death (Y10-Y14). These deaths typically had only an initial police report available at preliminary coding, where circumstances surrounding death can be unclear and often appear similar to deaths from natural causes.

    18 Determining deaths from Intentional drug poisoning (X60-X64) is similarly complex. Around 37.3% of deaths reassigned to an Intentional drug poisoning (X60-X64) were coded at preliminary as Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44). These deaths often had only an initial police report available at preliminary coding, where details on the intent of death can be unclear. A further 23.5% of those reassigned to this category were initially coded to Ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99). These deaths typically did not have toxicology and/or pathology reports available on NCIS at the time of preliminary coding.

    Impact of revisions - associated causes of death

    19 The revisions process has traditionally focussed on improving specificity of the underlying cause of death. More recently, there has been growing interest in associated cause statistics which can provide a more complete picture of the diseases and/or circumstances that contributed to a death. Associated causes include the type of injuries sustained by a deceased person, drug type in a drug-induced death (e.g. heroin, cannabis), chronic disease (e.g. cancer) and mental and behavioural disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety). The ABS has maximised the use of improved report attachment on the NCIS to enhance associated cause statistics through the revisions process. Analysis of associated causes of death can better enable targeted policy and prevention initiatives, especially for those deaths which are deemed preventable. For this reason, the revisions process typically focusses on associated cause of death enhancements for two key areas - drug specification in drug-induced deaths and mental and behavioural disorders implicated in deaths from external causes.

    Changes to drug types for drug-induced deaths

    20 There are multiple complex factors which need to be considered when a death is certified as drug-induced. The timing between the death and toxicology testing can influence the levels and types of drugs detected, making it difficult to determine the true level of a drug at the time of death. Individual tolerance levels may also vary considerably depending on multiple factors, including sex, body mass and a person’s previous exposure to a drug. Consideration of contextual factors around the death must also be considered such as pre-existing natural disease and reports from friends and families regarding the circumstances surrounding death. For these reasons, the certification of a death as being drug-induced can take significant time to complete, making these deaths particularly sensitive to the revisions process.

    21 Policies directed at reducing deaths due to drug poisoning employ a variety of strategies depending on drug type. Information regarding the type of drug(s) in a drug poisoning can often depend on the availability of an autopsy, toxicology or coronial finding report. When these reports are not available, the drug type is unknown and coded to Other and unspecified drugs, medicaments and biological substances (Unspecified drug) (T509). Importantly, deaths coded with an Unspecified drug (T509) are still counted as a drug-induced death at preliminary output, but they may be enhanced with more specific information about drug type via the revisions process. 

    22 From preliminary to revised, the number of drug-induced deaths in 2017 where drug type was not specified (Unspecified drug (T509)) decreased from 100 to 22. As a result, there was an increase in the number of specified drug types (see table below) with Benzodiazepines (T424) recording the largest increase (142 additional mentions) when analysed by single drug type. This was followed by Other opioids (T402) (85 additional mentions) and Other and unspecified antipsychotics and neuroleptics (T435) (64 additional mentions).

    Changes to associated cause drug types for 2017 - preliminary and revised, coroner-certified deaths (a)

     2017 reference yearChange (preliminary to revised)
     PR  
    Cause of death and ICD-10 codenonono%
    Benzodiazepines (T424)
    822
    964
    142
    17.3
    Other opioids (T402)
    531
    616
    85
    16.0
    Other and unspecified antipsychotics and neuroleptics (T435)
    290
    354
    64
    22.1
    Tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants (T430)
    242
    305
    63
    26.0
    Cannabis (T407)
    184
    245
    61
    33.2
    Other and unspecified antidepressants (T432)
    356
    410
    54
    15.2
    4-Aminophenol derivatives (T391)
    236
    286
    50
    21.2
    Psychostimulants with abuse potential (T436)
    376
    425
    49
    13.0
    Antiepileptic and sedative-hypnotic drugs, unspecified (T427)
    100
    138
    38
    38.0
    Other synthetic narcotics (T404)
    251
    287
    36
    14.3
    a. This table includes coroner-certified deaths only.
    b. Data in this table indicates the number of deaths with each specified drug recorded. Drug types are not mutually exclusive and deaths with multiple drugs present at will be included in more than one category. As a result, categories cannot be summed to obtain the total number of drug-induced deaths.
     

    Changes to associated causes for intentional self-harm and accidental drug poisonings

    23 Associated causes of death may provide important contextual information for deaths due to Intentional self-harm (X60-X84, Y870). At preliminary coding, approximately 78.7% of suicides in 2017 had associated causes mentioned as contributory factors to death. Through revisions, this proportion increased to 82.3%. The table below shows the top 5 increases for associated causes of death as they relate to Intentional self-harm (X60-X84, Y870). Mood disorders (F30-F39), which include depression and bipolar affective disorder, were the most common associated causes of death identified during the revisions process, followed by Mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use (F10-F19) and Suicide ideation (R458).

    Changes to intentional self-harm associated causes for 2017 - preliminary and revised, coroner-certified deaths (a)

     2017 reference yearChange (preliminary to revised)
     PR 
    Cause of death and ICD-10 codenonono
    Mood disorders (F30-F39)
    1345
    1476
    131
    Mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use (F10-F19)
    923
    1047
    124
    Suicide ideation (R458)
    565
    678
    113
    Anxiety and stress-related disorders (F40-F48)
    546
    654
    108
    Findings of alcohol, drugs and other substances in blood (R78)
    467
    541
    74
    a. This table includes coroner-certified deaths only.
     

    24 Associated causes may also provide critical insight into deaths due to Accidental drug poisoning (X40-X44). The table below shows the top 5 largest increases in associated causes for Accidental drug poisonings (X40-X44). As additional evidence and documentation was added to the NCIS there were 101 accidental drug overdoses where a Mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use (F10-F19) such as addiction or chronic substance misuse was identified. Mood disorders (F30-F39) were identified as being a factor in 66 accidental drug-induced deaths via the revisions process and anxiety and stress-related disorders (F40-F49) were identified as a factor in 55 deaths.

    Changes to accidental drug poisoning associated causes for 2017 - preliminary and revised, coroner-certified deaths (a)

     2017 reference yearChange (preliminary to revised)
     PR 
    Cause of death and ICD-10 codenonono
    Mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use (F10-F19)
    733
    834
    101
    Mood disorders (F30-F39)
    316
    382
    66
    Anxiety and stress-related disorders (F40-F48)
    191
    246
    55
    Ischaemic heart disease (I20-I25)
    127
    147
    20
    Schizophrenia, schizotypal and delusional disorders (F20-F29)
    115
    132
    17
    a. This table includes coroner-certified deaths only.

    Technical note - updates to 2016 and 2017 suicide data

    1 As part of the ABS's revisions process for Causes of Death, the ABS updates causes for coroner-certified deaths at 12 and 24 months after initial processing, to reflect the latest available information. Revisions have now been applied to 2016 and 2017 data. As coronial investigations regarding deaths due to suspected suicide can be extensive, it is a cause of death which may be more heavily impacted by revisions. It is important from a public health perspective to have accurate counts of suicides. As such, this technical note focusses on how the revisions process has changed suicide counts in 2016 and 2017. 

    2 Over time there has been a reduction in the number of deaths that are reassigned to suicide through the revisions process. In 2006 and 2007, the first years for which revisions were applied, the number of suicide deaths increased by 17.7% and 18.5%, respectively. In 2016, the final suicide count was 1.5% higher than the preliminary count. Several factors have impacted on the increased quality of preliminary data, including enhanced coding practices, enabling greater use of documents available on the National Coronial Information System (NCIS) and more timely report attachment.

    2016 final suicide count

    3 The final number of deaths due to suicide recorded for 2016 is 2,909, a net increase of 43 deaths (1.5%) from the preliminary count of 2,866. There was an increase of 45 suicides over the first revision period and a reduction of 2 suicides in the second revision period. 

    4 Deaths which have been reassigned to suicide through the revisions process were most likely to be coded to an Accidental poisoning (X40-X44) (22 deaths) or Event of undetermined intent (Y10-Y34) (19 deaths) when initially coded. There were 18 deaths that were initially coded to Other ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99) and later identified as suicide deaths through the revisions process. There were also some minor changes in the recorded mechanism of death associated with additional information becoming available, especially toxicology and pathology reports. 

    2017 revised suicide count

    5 The revised number of suicides in 2017 is 3,197, a net increase of 69 suicide deaths (2.2%) over the first year of the revisions process. Most deaths reassigned to suicide were initially coded to Event of undetermined intent (Y10-Y34) (32 deaths). There were 20 deaths that were reassigned from both Accidental poisoning (X40-X44) and from Other ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality (R99). The table below shows the total suicide counts for Australia at each stage of the revisions process for 2016 and 2017. 

    6 New South Wales (NSW) recorded the largest increase in deaths due to suicide for the 2017 revisions period. The revised number of suicides for NSW in 2017 is 929, a net increase of 49 (5.6%). Updated suicide data for jurisdictions is provided at the end of this technical note. 

    Count of suicides throughout revisions - 2016 and 2017(a)(b)(c)

     PreliminaryRevisedFinal
    Cause of death and ICD-10 codenonono
    2016
    2 866
    2 911
    2 909
    2017
    3 128
    3 197
    na
    na Not Applicable
    a. Intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to suicide. See Explanatory Notes 91-100.
    b. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2016 (final) and 2017 (revised). See Explanatory Notes 59-62 and 2016 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2017 Revised Data (Technical Note) in this publication.
    c. Since 2015 the release of Causes of Death, Australia has occurred 6 months earlier, representing a significant change in processing of the national mortality dataset. For further information regarding changes to ABS coding processes, see A More Timely Annual Collection: Changes to ABS Processes (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2015 (cat. no. 3303.0).
     

    7 The number and age-standardised death rate of deaths due to intentional self-harm by state and territory from 2009 to 2018 are shown in the tables below. These tables provide an updated time series that includes the revisions for 2016 and 2017 and should now be used in preference to those published in September 2018. A more detailed table which includes revised suicide counts by mechanism (ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0) are provided in the Revisions data cube in the Data downloads section of this publication. Further tabulations are available on request. Please contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

    Intentional self-harm, number of deaths, states and territories of usual residence, 2009-2018(a)(b)(c)

     2009201020112012201320142015201620172018
                        MALES    
    NSW
    466
    520
    465
    526
    523
    620
    637
    624
    717
    684
    Vic.
    434
    426
    401
    391
    394
    509
    514
    456
    446
    440
    Qld
    415
    441
    438
    477
    519
    498
    579
    532
    611
    618
    SA
    138
    157
    167
    150
    152
    186
    170
    164
    163
    154
    WA
    218
    250
    229
    271
    252
    277
    295
    269
    310
    285
    Tas
    59
    47
    51
    57
    54
    56
    66
    67
    61
    62
    NT
    31
    39
    38
    41
    22
    33
    31
    38
    37
    39
    ACT
    23
    34
    23
    17
    28
    28
    36
    20
    44
    38
    Australia
    1 785
    1 914
    1 812
    1 930
    1 944
    2 208
    2 329
    2 171
    2 390
    2 320
                     FEMALES    
    NSW
    157
    154
    152
    201
    195
    212
    202
    198
    212
    215
    Vic.
    142
    132
    125
    123
    139
    149
    164
    181
    176
    153
    Qld
    110
    147
    140
    154
    157
    160
    182
    156
    201
    168
    SA
    47
    40
    45
    48
    51
    57
    64
    57
    63
    58
    WA
    61
    63
    80
    96
    84
    90
    107
    104
    108
    98
    Tas
    20
    17
    23
    14
    20
    13
    18
    26
    19
    16
    NT
    6
    6
    6
    7
    11
    23
    17
    8
    14
    8
    ACT
    9
    7
    10
    7
    9
    10
    10
    8
    14
    9
    Australia
    552
    566
    581
    650
    666
    714
    764
    738
    807
    726
                     PERSONS    
    NSW
    623
    674
    617
    727
    718
    832
    839
    822
    929
    899
    Vic.
    576
    558
    526
    514
    533
    658
    678
    637
    622
    593
    Qld
    525
    588
    578
    631
    676
    658
    761
    688
    812
    786
    SA
    185
    197
    212
    198
    203
    243
    234
    221
    226
    212
    WA
    279
    313
    309
    367
    336
    367
    402
    373
    418
    383
    Tas
    79
    64
    74
    71
    74
    69
    84
    93
    80
    78
    NT
    37
    45
    44
    48
    33
    56
    48
    46
    51
    47
    ACT
    32
    41
    33
    24
    37
    38
    46
    28
    58
    47
    Australia
    2 337
    2 480
    2 393
    2 580
    2 610
    2 922
    3 093
    2 909
    3 197
    3 046
    a. Intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to suicide. See Explanatory Notes 91-100.
    b. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2009-2016 (final), 2017 (revised), 2018 (preliminary). See Explanatory Notes 59-62 and 2016 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2017 Revised Data (Technical Note) in this publication.
    c. Since 2015 the release of Causes of Death, Australia has occurred 6 months earlier, representing a significant change in processing of the national mortality dataset. For further information regarding changes to ABS coding processes, see A More Timely Annual Collection: Changes to ABS Processes (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2015 (cat. no. 3303.0).
     

    Intentional self-harm, age-standardised death rates, states and territories of usual residence, 2009-2018(a)(b)(c)(d)

     2009201020112012201320142015201620172018
                     MALES   
    NSW
    13.4
    14.7
    12.9
    14.5
    14.1
    16.5
    16.8
    16.1
    18.2
    17.1
    Vic.
    16.1
    15.6
    14.3
    13.9
    13.5
    17.1
    17.2
    14.6
    14.1
    13.6
    Qld
    19.5
    20.4
    19.9
    21.2
    22.7
    21.4
    24.9
    22.4
    25.3
    25.3
    SA
    17.4
    19.1
    20.4
    18.0
    18.0
    22.4
    19.4
    19.5
    18.7
    17.9
    WA
    19.3
    21.7
    19.1
    22.1
    19.8
    21.7
    22.9
    21
    24.1
    21.9
    Tas
    24.0
    19.6
    20.2
    22.1
    21.4
    21.8
    25.7
    25.5
    24
    23.2
    NT
    28.1
    31.6
    30.5
    31.0
    18.5
    24.6
    27.2
    30.7
    27.9
    31.3
    ACT
    13.1
    19.2
    14.0
    8.7
    14.6
    14.5
    17.9
    10.8
    21.8
    18.3
    Australia
    16.5
    17.5
    16.2
    17.0
    16.8
    18.8
    19.7
    18
    19.5
    18.6
                  FEMALES   
    NSW
    4.3
    4.2
    4.0
    5.3
    5.1
    5.4
    5.3
    5
    5.2
    5.2
    Vic.
    5.1
    4.6
    4.3
    4.4
    4.6
    4.9
    5.3
    5.7
    5.4
    4.7
    Qld
    5.0
    6.6
    6.2
    6.8
    6.7
    6.7
    7.5
    6.3
    8
    6.6
    SA
    5.8
    4.7
    5.5
    5.7
    6.0
    6.5
    7.5
    6.8
    7.3
    6.3
    WA
    5.4
    5.4
    6.7
    7.9
    6.7
    7.2
    8.4
    8
    8.3
    7.6
    Tas
    7.6
    np
    8.9
    np
    7.4
    np
    np
    9.2
    np
    np
    NT
    np
    np
    np
    np
    np
    18.5
    np
    np
    np
    np
    ACT
    np
    np
    np
    np
    np
    np
    np
    np
    np
    np
    Australia
    5.0
    5.0
    5.1
    5.6
    5.6
    6.0
    6.3
    6
    6.4
    5.7
                  PERSONS   
    NSW
    8.7
    9.3
    8.4
    9.8
    9.5
    10.8
    10.9
    10.5
    11.6
    11.1
    Vic.
    10.5
    10.1
    9.2
    9.0
    8.9
    10.9
    11.1
    10.1
    9.6
    9.1
    Qld
    12.1
    13.4
    12.9
    13.9
    14.6
    14.0
    16.0
    14.2
    16.5
    15.8
    SA
    11.5
    11.8
    12.9
    11.7
    11.9
    14.4
    13.3
    13
    12.9
    12
    WA
    12.3
    13.6
    12.9
    14.9
    13.3
    14.4
    15.6
    14.5
    16.2
    14.7
    Tas
    15.4
    13.0
    14.1
    13.7
    14.2
    12.8
    16.2
    17.1
    15.6
    14.5
    NT
    17.4
    18.8
    18.5
    19.2
    14.3
    21.7
    20.3
    19.2
    20.2
    19.5
    ACT
    8.9
    11.3
    9.3
    6.2
    9.6
    9.8
    11.4
    7.2
    14.1
    11
    Australia
    10.7
    11.2
    10.5
    11.2
    11.1
    12.3
    12.9
    11.9
    12.8
    12.1
    a. Intentional self-harm includes ICD-10 codes X60-X84 and Y87.0. Care needs to be taken in interpreting figures relating to suicide. See Explanatory Notes 91-100.
    b. All causes of death data from 2006 onward are subject to a revisions process - once data for a reference year are 'final', they are no longer revised. Affected data in this table are: 2009-2016 (final), 2017 (revised), 2018 (preliminary). See Explanatory Notes 59-62 and 2016 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2017 Revised Data (Technical Note) in this publication.
    c. Since 2015 the release of Causes of Death, Australia has occurred 6 months earlier, representing a significant change in processing of the national mortality dataset. For further information regarding changes to ABS coding processes, see A More Timely Annual Collection: Changes to ABS Processes (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2015 (cat. no. 3303.0).
    c. Age-standardised death rates (SDRs) enable the comparison of death rates between populations with different age structures. The SDRs in this table are presented on a per 100,000 population basis, using the estimated mid-year population (30 June) for each year. See Explanatory Notes 46-49 and the Glossary in Causes of Death, Australia, 2018 (cat. no. 3303.0) for further information.
    d. Age-standardised death rates for the 2016 reference year have been calculated using 2016 Census-based population estimates. See explanatory notes 46-49.

    Glossary

    Show all

    Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander

    Persons who identify themselves as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.

    Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander death

    The death of a person who is recorded as being an Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, or both on the Death Registration Form (DRF). The Indigenous status is also derived from the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) for South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory from 2007 and for Queensland from 2015. If the Indigenous status reported in the DRF does not agree with that in the MCCD, an identification from either source that the deceased was an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person is given preference over non-Indigenous. For New South Wales and Victoria, Indigenous status of the deceased is derived from the DRF only.

    Age-specific death rate

    Age-specific death rates (ASDRs) are the number of deaths (occurred or registered) during the reference year at a specified age per 100,000 of the estimated resident population of the same age at the mid-point of the year (30 June). ASDR for deaths under 1 year of age are calculated based on 1,000 live births for that year.

    All births

    All births comprises all live births plus all fetal deaths (gestation at least 20 weeks or birth weight at least 400 grams) for a specific year. This is the denominator used in calculating perinatal and fetal death rates in this publication. For data tables pertaining to the World Health Organization definition of a perinatal death, all births comprises all live births plus all fetal deaths with gestation of at least 22 weeks or a birth weight of at least 500 grams. See Appendix 1 (Data used in calculating death rates) for further information.

    Associated causes of death

    All causes listed on a death certificate other than the underlying cause.

    Australian Statistical Geographic Standard (ASGS)

    The ASGS provides a common framework of statistical geography and thereby enables the production of statistics that are comparable and can be spatially integrated. See Explanatory Notes 22-24 in this publication for more information.

    Cause of death

    The causes of death to be entered on the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death are all those diseases, morbid conditions or injuries that either resulted in or contributed to death and the circumstances of the accident or violence that produced any such injuries.

    Certifier type

    Deaths may be certified by either a medical practitioner, using the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death or Medical Certificate of Cause of Perinatal Death, or coroner. Natural causes are predominantly certified by doctors, whereas external and unknown causes are usually certified by a coroner. However, some deaths for natural causes are referred to coroners for investigation, for example, unaccompanied deaths. See Explanatory Notes 3-6 in this publication for more information.

    Confidentialised

    From 2006, data cells with small values have been randomly assigned to protect confidentiality. As a result some totals will not equal the sum of their components. It is important to note that cells with 0 values have not been affected by confidentialisation. Data presented at the Australia level (with exception to youth suicide tables) is not confidentialised - the death counts presented are exact counts.

    Coroner-certified deaths

    Deaths that were certified by a coroner. Deaths certified by a coroner represent 11-14% of all deaths each year. Coroner cases remain open while cause of death investigations are undertaken, and are closed when coronial investigations are complete. Following completion, causes of death information is passed to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, as well as to the National Coronial Information System (NCIS). All coroner certified deaths registered after 1 January 2006 will be subject to a revision process. For more information see Explanatory Notes 59-62 and the Causes of Death Revisions, 2015 Final Data Technical Note in Causes of Death, Australia, 2017.

    Country of birth

    The classification of countries used is the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC). For more detailed information refer to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC) (cat. no. 1269.0).

    Counts of death

    A form of multiple cause of death analysis that is a calculation of the number of people who have died with a particular disease/s or disorder/s.

    Counts of mentions

    A form of multiple cause of death analysis that calculates the total number of incidences of particular disease/s or disorder/s listed on the death certificates.

    Crude death rate

    The crude death rate (CDR) is the number of deaths registered during the reference year per 100,000 estimated resident population at 30 June.

    Data cubes

    Data cubes are a series of spreadsheets which present Causes of Death data. Causes of Death data cubes can be found on the web page under the Data downloads section.

    Death

    Death is the permanent disappearance of all evidence of life after birth has taken place. The definition excludes all deaths prior to live birth. For the purposes of the Deaths and Causes of Death collections of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), a death refers to any death that occurs in, or en route to, Australia and is registered with a state or territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

    Doctor-certified deaths

    Deaths that were certified by a doctor or medical practitioner, which were not required to be referred on to a coroner. Deaths certified by a doctor represent around 86%-89% of all deaths each year. Doctor certified deaths are not subject to the revisions process.

    Early neonatal death

    Death of a live born baby within seven days of birth.

    Estimated resident population (ERP)

    The official measure of the population of Australia is based on the concept of residence. It refers to all people, regardless of nationality or citizenship, who usually live in Australia, with the exception of foreign diplomatic personnel and their families. It includes usual residents who are overseas for fewer than 12 months over a 16-month period and excludes those who are in Australia for fewer than 12 months over a 16-month period.

    External causes of death

    Deaths due to causes external to the body (for example suicide, transport accidents, falls, poisoning etc.). These relate to ICD-10 codes V01-Y98.

    External territories

    Australian external territories include Australian Antarctic Territory, Coral Sea Islands Territory, Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands, and Territory of Heard and McDonald Islands.

    Fetal death

    A fetal death is a death prior to the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother as a product of conception of at least 20 completed weeks of gestation or with a birth weight of at least 400 grams (or at least 22 weeks gestation or 500 grams birthweight when using the World Health Organization definition of a fetal death). The death is indicated by the fact that after such separation the fetus does not breathe or show any other evidence of life, such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles. See Explanatory Notes 16-19 for further information.

    ​​​​​​​Fetal death rate

    The number of fetal deaths in a reference year per 1,000 all births (live births plus fetal deaths of relevant scope) in the same year. See 'All births' above.

    ICD

    International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. The purpose of the ICD is to permit the systematic recording, analysis, interpretation and comparison of mortality and morbidity data collected in different countries or areas and at different times. The ICD, which is endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), is primarily designed for the classification of diseases and injuries with a formal diagnosis. The ICD-10 is the current classification system, which is structured using an alphanumeric coding scheme. Each disease or health problem listed on the death certificate is assigned a 3-character identification code. Cause of death statistics can be produced for aggregates of these, for example, chapter level (letter), 2-character code (first two characters of the assigned code), and 3-character code (first three characters of the assigned code). See Explanatory Notes 25-29 for more information on ICD. Further information also is available from the WHO website.

    Indirect standardised death rate (ISDR)

    See Standardised Death Rate (SDR).

    Infant death

    An infant death is the death of a live born child who dies before reaching his/her first birthday.

    Infant death rate

    The number of deaths of children under one year of age in a reference year per 1,000 live births in the same reference year.

    Intent

    The manner or intent of an injury that leads to death is determined by whether the injury was inflicted purposefully or not (in some cases, intent cannot be determined). The determination of "intent" for each death is essential for determining the appropriate ICD-10 code to use for a death. See Explanatory Notes 54-58 for more information.

    Late neonatal death

    Death of a live born baby after seven completed days and within 28 completed days of birth.

    Leading causes of death

    Ranking causes of death is a useful method for describing patterns of mortality in a population and allows comparison over time and between populations. The ranking of leading causes of death in this publication is based on research presented in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Volume 84, Number 4, April 2006, 297-304. From 2016 reference year data onwards, an amendment has been made to the leading cause grouping for Malignant neoplasm of colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus (C18-C21) to also include Malignant neoplasm: Intestinal tract, part unspecified (C26.0). See Explanatory Note 40 for further information.

    Live births

    A live birth is the complete expulsion or extraction of a child from its mother as a product of conception, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy, which after such separation, breathes or shows any other evidence of life, such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord or definite movement of voluntary muscles, whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached; each product of such a birth is considered live born. This is the denominator used in calculating neonatal and infant death rates in this publication, and contributes to the denominator used for calculating fetal and total perinatal death rates. See Explanatory Notes 102-105.

    Mechanism of death

    Mechanisms of external cause of death by which a person may die include: poisoning; hanging and other threats to breathing; drowning and submersion; firearms; contact with sharp object; and falls.

    Median age at death

    This refers to the age at death at the 50th percentile for the relevant demographic group.

    Morbid train of events

    The events and diseases that lead to death.

    Mortality

    Death.

    Multiple causes of death

    All morbid conditions, diseases and injuries entered on the death certificate. These include those involved in the morbid train of events leading to death which were classified as either the underlying cause, the immediate cause, or any intervening causes, and those conditions that contributed to death but were not related to the disease or condition causing death. For deaths where the underlying cause was identified as an external cause (for example, injury or poisoning, etc.) multiple causes include circumstances of injury and the nature of injury as well as any other conditions reported on the death certificate. See Explanatory Notes 106-108 for further information.

    National Coronial Information System (NCIS)

    The NCIS is a national data storage system which contains information about all deaths referred to a coroner since July 2000 (January 2001 for Queensland).

    Natural cause of death

    Deaths due to diseases (for example diabetes, cancer, heart disease etc.) that are not external or unknown.

    Neonatal death

    A neonatal death is death of a live born baby within 28 completed days of birth.

    Neonatal death rate

    The number of deaths in a reference year of live born babies within 28 completed days of birth per 1,000 live births in the same reference year.

    Neonatal period

    The neonatal period commences at birth and ends 28 completed days after birth.

    Other territories

    Following the 1992 amendments to the Acts Interpretation Act, the Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are included as part of geographic Australia. As of 01 July, 2016, Norfolk Island is now also considered part of geographic Australia, due to the introduction of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015. Jervis Bay Territory (previously included with the Australian Capital Territory), Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Norfolk Island appear as "Other Territories", which is another category that has been created at the same level as states and territories within the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS).

    Perinatal death

    A death that is either a fetal death (i.e. a death prior to the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother as a product of conception of 20 completed weeks of gestation or with a birth weight of at least 400 grams (or 22 weeks' gestation or 500 grams' birth weight according to World Health Organization scope)), or a neonatal death (i.e. death of a live born baby within 28 completed days of birth).

    Perinatal death rate

    For comparison and measuring purposes, perinatal deaths in this publication have also been expressed as rates. Perinatal death rates are the number of perinatal deaths in a reference year (i.e. fetal and neonatal deaths) per 1,000 all births in the same reference year. See 'All births'.

    Perinatal period

    The perinatal period commences at 20 weeks of gestation and ends within 28 completed days of birth.

    Period of gestation

    Period of gestation is measured from the first day of the last normal menstrual period to the date of birth and is expressed in completed weeks.

    Post neonatal death

    Death of a live born baby after 28 days and within one year of birth.

    Rate difference

    Rate difference is calculated by subtracting the standardised death rate for one group (such as all persons with a usual residence of Queensland) from the standardised death rate for the total relevant population (such as all persons with a usual residence of Australia).

    Rate ratio

    Rate ratio is calculated by dividing the standardised death rate for one group (such as all persons with a usual residence of Queensland) by the standardised death rate for the total relevant population (such as all persons with a usual residence of Australia).

    Reference year

    The year that presented data refers to. For example, this publication presents data for the 2018 reference year, as well as some historical data for the 2009 to 2017 reference years. Data for a particular reference year includes all deaths registered in Australia for the reference year that are received by the ABS by the end of the March quarter of the subsequent year. For example, data for the 2018 reference year includes all deaths registered in Australia in 2018 that were received by the ABS by the end of March 2019. See Explanatory Notes 7-20 for more information about scope and coverage.

    Registration year

    Data presented on a year of registration basis relate to the date the death was registered with the relevant state or territory Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. In most cases the year of registration and year of occurrence for a particular death will be the same, but in some cases there may be a delay between occurrence and registration of death.

    Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages

    Each state and territory has a Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. It is a legal requirement that all deaths are recorded by the relevant Registry for the state or territory in which the death occurred.

    Reportable deaths

    Deaths which are reported to a coroner. See Explanatory Note 5 for further information on what constitutes a reportable death.

    Revisions process

    When additional information about an 'open' coroner certified death is received by the ABS, a more specific ICD-10 code may be applied, thereby 'revising' the cause of death. See Explanatory Notes 59-62 and A More Timely Annual Collection: Changes to ABS Processes (Technical Note) and Causes of Death Revisions, 2015 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2016 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2017 (cat. no. 3303.0).

    Sex indeterminate

    Sex indeterminate refers to deaths where the deceased has not been specified as male or female. Fetal deaths where sex is indeterminate are included in person totals only, where applicable.

    Sex ratio

    The number of males per 100 females. The sex ratio is defined for total population, at birth, at death and among age groups by appropriately selecting the numerator and denominator of the ratio.

    Standardised death rate (SDR)

    Standardised death rates (SDRs) enable the comparison of death rates between populations with different age structures by relating them to a standard population. The current standard population is all persons in the Australian population at 30 June 2001. SDRs are expressed per 100,000 persons. There are two methods of calculating standardised death rates:

    • The direct method - this is used when the populations under study are large and the age-specific death rates are reliable. It is the overall death rate that would have prevailed in the standard population if it had experienced at each age the death rates of the population under study.
    • The indirect method - this is used when the populations under study are small and the age-specific death rates are unreliable or not known. It is an adjustment to the crude death rate of the standard population to account for the variation between the actual number of deaths in the population under study and the number of deaths that would have occurred if the population under study had experienced the age-specific death rates of the standard population.

    Throughout this publication, when SDRs are produced for comparison between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and the non-Indigenous population, they are produced according to the principles outlined in Appendix: Principles on the use of direct age-standardisation, from Deaths, Australia, 2010 (cat. no. 3302.0). Rates based on a total persons death count of fewer than 20 deaths are not published, in accordance with Principle 3. Standardised Death Rates for the total population have been produced according to the same principles, with the main exception being the use of data up to the 85 and over year age grouping.

    State or territory of registration

    State or territory of registration refers to the state or territory in which the death was registered. It is the state or territory in which the death occurred, but is not necessarily the deceased's state or territory of usual residence.

    State or territory of usual residence

    State or territory of usual residence refers to the state or territory in which the person has lived or intended to live for a total of six months or more in a given reference year.

    Stillbirth

    See fetal death.

    Underlying cause of death

    The disease or injury that initiated the train of morbid events leading directly to death. Accidental and violent deaths are classified according to the external cause, that is, to the circumstances of the accident or violence which produced the fatal injury rather than to the nature of the injury.

    Unknown cause of death

    Deaths for which it is not possible to determine between a natural and an external cause.

    Usual residence

    Usual residence within Australia refers to that address at which the person has lived or intended to live for a total of six months or more in a given reference year.

    Year of occurrence

    Data presented on a year of occurrence basis relate to the date the death occurred rather than when it was registered with the relevant state or territory Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. See Explanatory Notes 7-8 for more information.

    Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL)

    YPLL measures the extent of 'premature' mortality, where 'premature' mortality is assumed to be any death at age 1-78 years inclusive. By estimating YPLL for deaths of people aged 1-78 years it is possible to assess the significance of specific diseases or trauma as a cause of premature death. See Explanatory Notes 42-45 for an explanation of the calculation of YPLL.

    Quality declaration - causes of death data, summary

    Institutional environment

    For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.

    Statistics presented in Causes of Death, Australia, 2018 (cat. no. 3303.0) are sourced from death registrations administered by the various state and territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. It is a legal requirement of each state and territory that all deaths are registered. Information about the deceased is supplied by a relative or other person acquainted with the deceased, or by an official of the institution where the death occurred, on a Death Registration Form. As part of the registration process, information on the cause of death is either supplied by the medical practitioner certifying the death on a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, or supplied as a result of a coronial investigation.

    Death records are provided electronically to the ABS by individual Registrars on a monthly basis. Each death record contains both demographic data and medical information from the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, where available. Information from coronial investigations is provided to the ABS through the National Coronial Information System (NCIS).

    Relevance

    The ABS Causes of Death collection includes all deaths that occurred and were registered in Australia, including deaths of persons whose usual residence is overseas. Deaths registered on Norfolk Island from 1 July 2016 are also included due to the introduction of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015. See Explanatory Note 13 in Causes of Deaths, Australia, 2018 (cat. no. 3303.0) for more information. Deaths of Australian residents that occurred outside Australia may be registered by individual Registrars, but are not included in ABS deaths or causes of death statistics.

    From the 2007 reference year, the scope of the collection is:

    • all deaths registered in Australia for the reference year and received by the ABS by the end of the March quarter of the subsequent year; and
    • deaths registered prior to the reference year but not previously received from the Registrar nor included in any statistics reported for an earlier period.

    For example, records received by the ABS during the March quarter of 2019 which were initially registered in 2018 or prior (but not forwarded to the ABS until 2019) are assigned to the 2018 reference year. Any death registrations relating to the 2018 reference period which are received by the ABS after the end of the March 2019 quarter are assigned to the 2019 reference year.

    Data in the Causes of Death collection include causes of death information, as well as some demographic items. Causes of death information is obtained from the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (general deaths), the Medical Certificate of Cause of Perinatal Death (perinatal deaths) and the National Coronial Information System (coroner-certified deaths). Causes of death are coded according to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

    Issues for causes of death data:

    • The primary objective of the owner of the source data can differ from the information needs of the statistical users. Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages and coroners have legislative and administrative obligations to meet, as well as being the source of statistics. As a result, the population covered by the source data, the time reference period for some data, and the data items available in the registration system, may not align exactly with the requirements of users of the statistics.
    • There can be differences between the defined scope of the population (i.e. every death occurring in Australia) and the actual coverage achieved by the registration system. Levels of registration can be influenced by external factors and coverage achieved will be influenced by the steps taken by the owners of death registration systems to ensure all deaths are registered. For example, a death certificate may need to be produced in order to finalise certain other legal requirements e.g. finalisation of a person's estate.
    • There are eight different registration systems within Australia. Each jurisdiction's registration system, while similar in many ways, also has a number of differences. These can include the types of data items collected, the definition of those collected data items, and business processes undertaken within Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages including coding and quality assurance practices.
       

    Timeliness

    Causes of Death, Australia dataset is released annually, approximately nine months after the end of the reference period and in conjunction with Deaths, Australia 2018 (cat. no. 3302.0).

    Prior to the release of the 2015 dataset, causes of death data had been released approximately 15 months after the end of the reference period, however changes to ABS processes allowed for more timely access to Australian mortality data. For more information see A more timely annual collection: changes to ABS processes (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2015 (cat. no. 3303.0).

    There is a focus on fitness for purpose when causes of death statistics are released. To meet user requirements for accurate causes of death data it is necessary to obtain information from other administrative sources before all information for the reference period is available. This specifically applies to coroner certified deaths, where extra information relating to the death is provided through police, toxicology, autopsy and coronial finding reports. A balance therefore needs to be maintained between accuracy (completeness) of data and timeliness. ABS provides the data in a timely manner, ensuring that all coding possible can be undertaken with accuracy prior to publication.

    As coroner certified deaths can have ill-defined causes of death until a case is closed within the coronial system, a revisions process was introduced that applies to all coroner certified deaths registered after 1 January 2006 to enhance the cause of death output for open coroner cases. This process enables the use of additional information for coding relating to coroner certified deaths at approximately 12 and/or 24 months after initial processing. See Explanatory Notes 59-62 in this publication and Causes of Death Revisions, 2015 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2016 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2017 (cat. no. 3303.0) for more information on the revisions process.

    Causes of Death, Australia, 2018, includes preliminary data for 2018 and 2017, revised data for 2016 and final data for 2015 and prior years. Revised output for the 2016 and 2017 data will be released in early 2020.

    Issues for causes of death data:

    • A balance is maintained between accuracy (completeness) and timeliness, taking into account the different needs of users and maximising the fitness for purpose of the data. Documentation including explanatory notes and technical notes are provided for causes of death statistics. These should be used to assess the fitness for purpose of the data to ensure informed decisions can be made.
    • The timeliness of administrative information that supports cause of death coding can be impacted by legislative requirements, systems and resources available to maintain/update systems.
       

    Accuracy

    Non-sampling errors may influence accuracy in datasets which constitute a complete census of the population, such as the Causes of Death collection. Non-sampling error arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. Every effort is made to minimise non-sampling error by working closely with data providers, undertaking quality checks throughout the data processing cycle, training of processing staff, and efficient data processing procedures.

    The ABS has implemented a revisions process that applies to all coroner certified deaths registered after 1 January 2006. This is a change from preceding years where all ABS processing of causes of death data for a particular reference period was finalised approximately 13 months after the end of the reference period. The revisions process enables the use of additional information relating to coroner certified deaths as it becomes available over time, resulting in increased specificity of the assigned ICD-10 codes. See Explanatory Notes 59-62 in this publication and Causes of Death Revisions, 2015 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2016 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2017 (cat. no. 3303.0) for more information on the revisions process.

    Issues for causes of death data:

    • Completeness of the dataset e.g. impact of registration lags, processing lags and duplicate records.
    • Extent of coverage of the population (while all deaths are legally required to be registered some cases may not be registered for an extended time).
    • Some lack of consistency in the application of questions or forms used by administrative data providers.
    • The level of specificity and completeness in coronial reports or doctor's findings on the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death.
    • Errors in the coding of the causes of a death to ICD-10. The majority of cause of death coding is undertaken through an automated coding process, which is estimated to have a very high level of accuracy. Human coding can be subject to error, however the ABS mitigates this risk through rigorous coder training, detailed documentation and instructions for coding complex or difficult cases, and extensive data quality checks.
    • Cases where coronial proceedings remain open at the end of ABS processing for a reference period are potentially assigned a less specific ICD-10 cause of death code.
    • Where coroner-certified deaths become closed during the revisions process, additional information is often made available, making more specific coding possible.
       

    Coherence

    Use of explanatory notes and technical notes released with the statistics is important for assessing coherence within the dataset and when comparing the statistics with data from other sources. Changing business rules over time and/or across data sources can affect consistency and hence interpretability of statistical output, especially when assessing time series data.

    The ICD is the international standard classification for epidemiological purposes and is designed to promote international comparability in the collection, processing, classification, and presentation of cause of death statistics. The classification is used to classify diseases, conditions, injuries and external events as recorded on many types of medical records as well as death records. It is used for both morbidity and mortality purposes, with the morbidity version incorporating clinical modifications. The ICD is revised periodically to incorporate changes in the medical field. The 10th revision of ICD (ICD-10) was used for coding the 2018 data.

    Issues for causes of death data:

    • Changes to questions, scope etc. over time can affect the consistency of data collected over the period, even when the source of the data is the same. These changes can be the result of legislative or program objective changes.
    • The completeness or quality of older versus newer data can also impact on comparisons across time or domains.
    • Statistical concepts for questions are not always suited to the administrative purpose or the means of collection.
       

    Interpretability

    In 2014, the ABS implemented Iris, a new automated coding software product for assisting in the processing of cause of death data. This software has been used from 2013 reference year cause of death data onwards. With the introduction of new coding software, the ABS also implemented the most up to date versions of the ICD-10 when coding 2013 and 2014-2017 data (using the 2013 and 2015 versions, respectively), and improved a number of coding practices to realign with international best practice. As part of this, the ABS began a review of its method of coding perinatal deaths which, for the 2013-2018 data published in this issue, has meant a change to the method used for assigning an underlying cause of death to neonatal deaths.

    The 2018 reference year cause of death data presented in this publication was coded using the 2016 version (version 5.4.0) of Iris software. This system replaced Iris version 4.4.1 which was used to code the 2013-2017 cause of death data. Version 5.4.0 of the Iris software applied the World Health Organization (WHO) ICD-10 updates and a new underlying cause of death processing system called the Multicausal and Unicausal Selection Engine (MUSE). This has resulted in changes to the automated coding path for some causes of death. The implementation of MUSE, alongside the updates to the ICD-10, align the Australian mortality data up to date with international best practice. The ABS have also implemented extra validation processes with the implementation of MUSE to ensure maximum alignment with WHO guidelines and coding rules.

    It is advised that data users refer to the below technical notes for further details:

    The Causes of Death publication contains detailed Explanatory Notes, Technical Notes, Appendices and a Glossary that provide information on the data sources, terminology, classifications and other technical aspects associated with these statistics.

    Issues for causes of death data:

    • Information on some aspects of statistical quality may be hard to obtain as information on the source data has not been kept over time. This is related to the administrative rather than statistical purpose of the collection of the source data.
    • Changes to data processing practices, such as the implementation of new software, updates to causes of death classifications, or changes to local coding practices, should be taken into consideration when comparing data over time.
       

    Accessibility

    In addition to the information provided in this publication, a series of data cubes are also available, providing detailed breakdowns by causes of death. The ABS observes strict confidentiality protocols as required by the Census and Statistics Act (1905). This may restrict access to data at a very detailed level which is sought by some users.

    Issues for causes of death data:

    • Often an administrative source can provide the basis for statistical information which has a different nature and focus to the source's principal administrative purpose. There may be a reduced focus or availability of funding within the program to ensure the accessibility of information for non-administrative uses.
    • Each jurisdiction has its own legislation governing death registration as well as that governing the coronial process. Jurisdictions also have privacy legislation which governs the accessibility of the statistics.
    • The ABS observes strict confidentiality protocols as required by the Census and Statistics Act (1905). This may restrict access to data at a very detailed level which is sought by some users.
    • A national causes of death unit record file can be obtained through the Australian Coordinating Registry (which is housed at the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages) by sending an email to BDM.CODURF@justice.qld.gov.au (data available on application for legitimate research purposes only).
       

    If the information you require is not available from the publication or the data cubes, then the ABS may also have other relevant data available on request. Inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or by sending an email to client.services@abs.gov.au.

    The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to the ABS.

    Quality declaration - perinatal data, summary

    Definition

    Perinatal deaths statistics refer to all fetal (stillbirth) deaths of at least 20 weeks gestation or at least 400 grams birth weight, and neonatal deaths (all live born babies who die within 28 days of birth, regardless of gestation or weight).

    Institutional environment

    For further information on the institutional environment of the ABS, including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.

    Statistics on perinatal deaths presented in Causes of Death, Australia, 2018 (cat. no. 3303.0) are sourced from death registrations administered by the various state and territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. It is a legal requirement of each state and territory that all neonatal deaths and those fetal deaths of at least 20 weeks gestation or 400 grams birth weight are registered. As part of the registration process, information on the cause of death is either supplied by the medical practitioner certifying the death on a Medical Certificate of Cause of Perinatal Death, or supplied as a result of a coronial investigation.

    Death records are provided electronically and/or in paper form to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) by individual Registrars on a monthly basis. Each death record contains both demographic data and medical information from the Medical Certificate of Cause of Perinatal Death, where available. Information from coronial investigations are provided to the ABS through the National Coroners Information System (NCIS).

    Relevance

    Perinatal statistics provide valuable information for the analysis of fetal, neonatal and perinatal deaths in Australia. This publication presents data at the national and state level on registered perinatal deaths by sex, state of usual residence, main condition in fetus/infant, main condition in mother and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status. Fetal, neonatal and perinatal death rates are also provided.

    The ABS Causes of Death collection includes all perinatal deaths that occurred and were registered in Australia, including deaths of persons whose usual residence is overseas. Deaths registered on Norfolk Island from 1 July 2016 are also included due to the introduction of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015. See Explanatory Note 13 in Causes of Deaths, Australia, 2018 (cat. no. 3303.0) for more information. Deaths of Australian residents that occurred outside Australia may be registered by individual Registrars, but are not included in ABS deaths or perinatal deaths statistics.

    This publication only includes information on registered fetal and neonatal deaths. This scope differs from other Australian data sources on perinatal deaths including the National Perinatal Mortality Collection, which sources data via state and territory perinatal committees directly through hospital and health centres. More information about the scope of the perinatal deaths statistics can be found in Explanatory Notes 16 to 20 in this publication.

    Since the 2006 reference year, the scope of the perinatal death statistics has included all fetal deaths of at least 20 weeks gestation or at least 400 grams birth weight, and all neonatal deaths (all live born babies who die within 28 days of birth, regardless of gestation or weight) which are:

    • all deaths registered in Australia for the reference year and received by the ABS by the end of the March quarter of the subsequent year; and
    • deaths registered prior to the reference year but not previously received from the Registrar nor included in any statistics reported for an earlier period.
       

    For example, records received by the ABS during the March quarter of 2019 which were initially registered in 2018 or prior (but not forwarded to the ABS until 2019) are assigned to the 2018 reference year. Any death registrations relating to the 2018 reference period which are received by the ABS after the end of the March 2019 quarter are assigned to the 2019 reference year.

    Data in the Perinatal deaths collection include causes of death information, as well as some demographic items. Causes of death information is obtained from the Medical Certificate of Cause of Perinatal Death (perinatal deaths) and the National Coronial Information System (coroner-certified deaths). Causes of death are coded according to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

    Issues for perinatal deaths data:

    • The primary objective of the owner of the source data can differ from the information needs of the statistical users. Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages and coroners have legislative and administrative obligations to meet, as well as being the source of statistics. As a result, the population covered by the source data, the time reference period for some data, and the data items available in the registration system, may not align exactly with the requirements of users of the statistics.
    • There can be differences between the defined scope of the population (i.e. every death occurring in Australia) and the actual coverage achieved by the registration system. Levels of registration can be influenced by external factors and coverage achieved will be influenced by the steps taken by the owners of death registration systems to ensure all deaths are registered.
    • There are eight different registration systems within Australia. Each jurisdiction's registration system, while similar in many ways, also has a number of differences. These can include the types of data items collected, the definition of those collected data items, and business processes undertaken within Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages including coding and quality assurance practices.
       

    Timeliness

    Causes of Death, Australia dataset is released annually, approximately nine months after the end of the reference period and in conjunction with Deaths, Australia 2017 (cat. no. 3302.0). Perinatal deaths data are included in the Causes of Death, Australia 2018 (cat. no. 3303.0) published outputs.

    Prior to the release of the 2015 dataset, Causes of Death data had been released approximately 15 months after the end of the reference period, however changes to ABS processes allowed for more timely access to Australian mortality data. For more information see A more timely annual collection: changes to ABS processes (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2015 (cat. no. 3303.0).

    There is a focus on fitness for purpose when causes of death statistics are released. To meet user requirements for accurate causes of death data it is necessary to obtain information from other administrative sources before all information for the reference period is available. This specifically applies to coroner certified deaths, where extra information relating to the death is provided through police, toxicology, autopsy and coronial finding reports. A balance therefore needs to be maintained between accuracy (completeness) of data and timeliness. ABS provides the data in a timely manner, ensuring that all coding possible can be undertaken with accuracy prior to publication.

    As coroner certified deaths can have ill-defined causes of death until a case is closed within the coronial system, a revisions process was introduced that applies to all neonatal coroner certified deaths registered after 1 January 2006 to enhance the cause of death output for open coroner cases (causes of death for fetal deaths are not revised). This process enables the use of additional information for coding relating to coroner certified deaths at approximately 12 and/or 24 months after initial processing. See Explanatory Notes 59-62 in this publication and Causes of Death Revisions, 2015 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2016 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2017 (cat. no. 3303.0) for more information on the revisions process.

    Causes of Death, Australia, 2018, includes preliminary neonatal data for 2018 and 2017, revised data for 2016 and final data for 2015 and prior years. Revised output for the 2016 and 2017 data will be released in early 2020. All data relating to fetal deaths is final.

    Issues for perinatal deaths data:

    • A balance is maintained between accuracy (completeness) and timeliness, taking into account the different needs of users and maximising the fitness for purpose of the data. Documentation including explanatory notes and technical notes are provided for causes of death statistics. These should be used to assess the fitness for purpose of the data to ensure informed decisions can be made.
    • The timeliness of administrative information that supports cause of death coding can be impacted by legislative requirements, systems and resources available to maintain/update systems.
       

    Accuracy

    Non-sampling errors may influence accuracy in datasets which constitute a complete census of the population, such as the Causes of Death collection. Non-sampling error arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. Every effort is made to minimise non-sampling error by working closely with data providers, undertaking quality checks throughout the data processing cycle, training of processing staff, and efficient data processing procedures.

    The ABS has implemented a revisions process that applies to all coroner-certified neonatal deaths registered after 1 January 2006. This is a change from preceding years where all ABS processing of causes of death data for a particular reference period was finalised approximately 13 months after the end of the reference period. The revisions process enables the use of additional information relating to coroner-certified deaths as it becomes available over time, resulting in increased specificity of the assigned ICD-10 codes. See Explanatory Notes 59-62 in this publication and Causes of Death Revisions, 2015 Final Data (Technical Note) and 2016 Revised Data (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2017 (cat. no. 3303.0) for more information on the revisions process.

    Issues for perinatal deaths data:

    • Completeness of an individual record at a given point in time (e.g. incomplete causes of death information due to non-finalisation of coronial proceedings);
    • Completeness of the dataset e.g. impact of registration lags, processing lags and duplicate records;
    • Extent of coverage of the population (whilst all deaths are legally required to be registered some cases may not be registered for an extended time, if at all);
    • Some lack of consistency in the application of questions or forms used by administrative data providers.
    • Question and ‘interviewer’ biases given that information for death registrations are supplied about the person by someone else. For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification as reported by a third party can be different from self reported responses on a form; and
    • Level of specificity and completeness in coronial reports or doctor's findings on the Medical Certificate of Cause of Perinatal Death will impact on the accuracy of coding.
    • Errors in the coding of the causes of a death to ICD-10. The majority of cause of death coding is undertaken through an automated coding process, which is estimated to have a very high level of accuracy. Human coding can be subject to error, however the ABS mitigates this risk through rigorous coder training, detailed documentation and instructions for coding complex or difficult cases, and extensive data quality checks.
    • Cases where coronial proceedings remain open at the end of ABS processing for a reference period are potentially assigned a less specific ICD-10 cause of death code.
    • Where coroner-certified deaths become closed during the revisions process, additional information is often made available, making more specific coding possible.
       

    Coherence

    Use of the explanatory notes and technical notes released with the statistics is important for assessing coherence within the dataset and when comparing the statistics with data from other sources. Changing business rules over time and/or across data sources can affect consistency and hence interpretability of statistical output, especially when assessing time series data.

    The ICD is the international standard classification for epidemiological purposes and is designed to promote international comparability in the collection, processing, classification, and presentation of cause of death statistics. The classification is used to classify diseases, conditions, injuries and external events as recorded on many types of medical records as well as death records. It is used for both morbidity and mortality purposes, with the morbidity version incorporating clinical modifications. The ICD is revised periodically to incorporate changes in the medical field. The 10th revision of ICD (ICD-10) is used for the 2018 data.

    Issues for perinatal deaths data:

    • Changes to questions, scope etc. over time can affect the consistency of data collected over the period, even when the source of the data is the same. These changes can be the result of legislative or program objective changes.
    • The completeness or quality of older versus newer data can also impact on comparisons across time or domains.
    • Statistical concepts for questions are not always suited to the administrative purpose or the means of collection.
       

    Interpretability

    In 2014, the ABS implemented Iris, a new automated coding software product for assisting in the processing of cause of death data, and improved a number of coding practices to realign with international best practice. As part of this, the ABS began a review of its method of coding neonatal deaths which, for the 2013-2018 data published in this issue, has meant a change to the method used for assigning an underlying cause of death to neonatal deaths. It is advised that data users refer to the Changes to Perinatal Death Coding Technical Note in Causes of Death, Australia, 2014, for further information on changes to the perinatal dataset.

    The 2018 reference year cause of death data presented in this publication was coded using the 2016 version (version 5.4.0) of Iris software. This system replaced Iris version 4.4.1 which was used to code the 2013-2017 cause of death data. Version 5.4.0 of the Iris software applied the World Health Organization (WHO) ICD-10 updates and a new underlying cause of death processing system called the Multicausal and Unicausal Selection Engine (MUSE). This has resulted in changes to the automated coding path for some causes of death. The implementation of MUSE, alongside the updates to the ICD-10, align the Australian mortality data up to date with international best practice. The ABS have also implemented extra validation processes with the implementation of MUSE to ensure maximum alignment with WHO guidelines and coding rules.

    It is advised that data users refer to the below technical notes for further details:

    The Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0) publication contains detailed Explanatory Notes, Appendices and a Glossary in each issue that provide information on the data sources, terminology, classifications and other technical aspects associated with these statistics.

    Issues for perinatal deaths data:

    • Information on some aspects of statistical quality may be hard to obtain as information on the source data has not been kept over time. This is related to the issue of the administrative rather than statistical purpose of the collection of the source data.
    • Changes to data processing practices, such as the implementation of new software, updates to causes of death classifications, or changes to local coding practices, should be taken into consideration when comparing data over time.
       

    Accessibility

    In addition to the information provided in the commentary, a series of data cubes are also available providing detailed breakdowns by cause of death. The ABS observes strict confidentiality protocols as required by the Census and Statistics Act (1905). This may restrict access to data at a very detailed level which is sought by some users.

    Issues for causes of death data:

    • Often an administrative source can provide the basis for statistical information which has a different nature and focus to the source's principal administrative purpose. There may be a reduced focus or availability of funding within the program to ensure the accessibility of information for non-administrative uses.
    • Each jurisdiction has its own legislation governing death registration as well as that governing the coronial process. Jurisdictions also have privacy legislation which governs the accessibility of the statistics.
    • The ABS observes strict confidentiality protocols as required by the Census and Statistics Act (1905). This may restrict access to data at a very detailed level which is sought by some users.
    • A national causes of death unit record file which contains neonatal deaths data (but does not include fetal deaths data) can be obtained through the Australian Coordinating Registry (which is housed at the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages) by sending an email to BDM.CODURF@justice.qld.gov.au (data available on application for legitimate research purposes only).

    If the information you require is not available from the publication or the data cubes, then the ABS may also have other relevant data available on request. Inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or by sending an email to client.services@abs.gov.au.

    The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to the ABS.

    Abbreviations

    Show all

    ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
    ACSautomated coding system
    ACTAustralian Capital Territory
    AIDSAcquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
    AIHWAustralian Institute of Health and Welfare
    ASDRage-specific death rate
    ASGCAustralian Standard Geographical Classification
    ASGSAustralian Statistical Geography Standard
    Aust.Australia
    cat. no.catalogue number
    CDRcrude death rate
    CMClinical Modification
    COADchronic obstructive airways disease
    DRFdeath registration form
    ERPestimated resident population
    HIVHuman Immunodeficiency Virus
    ICD-10International Classification of Diseases 10th Revision
    IHDischaemic heart disease
    IMRinfant mortality rate
    ISDRindirect standardised death rate
    MCCDmedical certificate of cause of death
    MCCPDmedical certificate of cause of perinatal death
    METeORMetadata Online Registry
    MMDSMortality Medical Data System
    no.number
    NCHSNational Center for Health Statistics
    NCISNational Coronial Information System
    NCR SICNational Civil Registration and Statistics Improvement Committee
    NSWNew South Wales
    NTNorthern Territory
    QLDQueensland
    SASouth Australia
    SA2Statistical Area 2
    SACCStandard Australian Classification of Countries
    SDRstandardised death rate
    SIDSSudden Infant Death Syndrome
    TASTasmania
    URCUpdate and Revision Committee
    VICVictoria
    WAWestern Australia
    WHOWorld Health Organization
    YPLLyears of potential life lost