This week, the ABS released the annual mortality statistics – the analysis of all the people who died in Australia in 2008.. Overall, at a population level, the “standardised death rate” (deaths per 1,000 population, adjusting for a standard age structure) was 6.0 per 1,000 people – the same as 2007. But splitting it down to males and females, the standardised death rate for both males and females went up slightly (from 7.2 to 7.3 for males and from 4.9 to 5.0 for females).
The ABS only releases statistics to 1 decimal place, so its hard to tell exactly where the increases were. But they appear to be largely in the older ages for women (all ages above 70 have a slightly higher death rate) and in the middle to older ages for men (40-44 year olds have gone up slightly, as have the over 80s, the early 70s and the early 50s).
It’s particularly interesting that the older age death rates have gone up, because that goes against a trend where mortality rates at older ages have been improving very significantly (much more than at younger ages) for many years. Looking at the last 10 years, it is the first time that any mortality rate has gone up over the age of 70.
So I had a look at the preliminary cause of death analysis. I was half expecting to see a big increase in pneumonia and flu type deaths (perhaps the swine flu was widespread before our current flu season?) But diseases of the respiratory system dropped from 7.9% of the total to 7.3% (and the number of deaths from that cause actually dropped by 4% during the year). Lots of other causes took their place. But one increase interested me: Deaths from Endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases (mainly diabetes) increased by 10% during the year. The numbers are small, but doctors have been warning for some time that current mortality improvements will come to an end as the proportion of the population that is obese increases. It’s too early to tell, but I’ll be watching the final analysis for this year (due out in March) with interest.