Ideally, the number of deaths should be 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, so not all deaths are registered in the year in which 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. There are three dates that apply to each death record:
- 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.
All deaths referred to in this publication relate to the number of deaths registered in 2019, not those which actually occurred in 2019.
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.
Death records received by the ABS during the March quarter of 2020 which were initially registered in 2019 and received by the ABS before April 2020 have been assigned to the 2019 reference year. Any registrations relating to 2019 which were received by the ABS from April 2020 onwards will be assigned to the 2020 reference year. Approximately 4% to 7% of deaths occurring in one year are not registered until the following year or later.
The ABS Causes of Death - Doctor Certified collection includes all doctor certified deaths that occurred and were registered in Australia, including deaths of persons whose usual residence was 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.
The current scope of the ABS death 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;
- 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).
The scope of the ABS death statistics excludes:
- repatriation of human remains where the death occurred overseas;
- deaths overseas of foreign diplomatic staff (where these are able to be identified); and
- stillbirths/fetal deaths (these will be included in the perinatal dataset in the full Causes of Death, Australia, 2019 publication, to be released later this year).