Heart disease involved in one fifth of Aussie deaths

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is involved in around one in five deaths in Australia, according to the latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The What do Australians die from? report looked at the leading causes of death for the 191,000 deaths recorded in Australia in 2022.

The report tallied all health conditions listed on the death certificate when determining cause of death and the AIHW says the research provides new insight into how health conditions can combine to ultimately cause a person’s death.

“Understanding what Australians die from is complex and the answer can vary, depending on how we assess the conditions involved,” says AIHW spokesperson Michelle Gourley.

“Traditionally, statistics about how people die are based primarily on the initiating or ‘underlying’ cause of death, but death certificates also contain other information that can be useful in understanding why a death occurred.”

“For example, while the underlying cause of death for a person might be CHD, the death certificate might also record the health condition that led directly to death, such as acute myocardial infarction (heart attack).

“Other conditions that significantly contributed to the death such as hypertension, diabetes, alcohol use disorders, COVID-19 and other contextual factors may also be recorded on the death certificate.”

Most deaths have more than one cause

The research showed four out of every five deaths recorded had more than one cause of death recorded, and 25 per cent of deaths had more than five listed causes.

While CHD was the most commonly recorded underlying, or main, cause of death, dementia (18 per cent), hypertension (12 per cent), cerebrovascular diseases (11 per cent) and diabetes (also 11 per cent) were other conditions commonly listed at death.

There were differences between the sexes when it came to contributing factors for deaths, with men more likely to have substance abuse disorders present such as alcoholism (2.0 per cent), tobacco addiction (1.3 per cent) or other drug dependencies (1.6 per cent).

On the other hand, women were more likely to be affected by dementia (7 per cent) and musculoskeletal conditions like osteoporosis (1.9 per cent) and osteoarthritis (1.5 per cent) at the time of their deaths.

Chronic conditions biggest threat for older Aussies

For the 55 and over age group, chronic conditions such as CHD, dementia and cancer were the most common underlying causes of death. The final push over the edge in many of these cases were complications from these chronic conditions, such as infections, cardiac arrest and respiratory failure.

Diabetes, hypertension, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and dementia were common contributorsto deaths at older ages.

For people aged between 15 and 54, external causes of death such as suicide, road accidents and accidental poisoning were most common.

Ms Gourley says by looking at the underlying, contributing and direct causes of death in unison will give health professionals a more holistic view of the end-of-life process.

“Using different ways of looking at causes of death can enhance our understanding of the roles played by different diseases and conditions in a person’s health and in their death,” she says.

“This can lead to a better awareness of what health conditions have the biggest impact on the community and can aid health services and decision makers in relation to developing strategies and interventions to reduce the impact of diseases and promote better health.”

Does it surprise you that CHD is such a common cause of death? When was the last time you had your heart checked? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: What is ‘pre-death grief’?

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyerhttps://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/bradlockyer/
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. So much misinformation and some important matters ignored.

    Firstly, it is not cholesterol as such, that binds to arterial walls. It is a little like having to roughen a brick or stone wall before a cement render can be stuck on. The arterial walls of both, the coronary and pulmonary arteries are firstly ‘prepared’ by calcium deposits that appear from too much calcium and too little magnesium in our modern foods.

    The plugs that firstly, attach and then grow are a combination of calcium, phosphate and cholesterol. Statins do nothing for this problem. In fact some people suffer cognitive decline due to Statins reducing cholesterol levels in the brain where it is needed for healthy neural function.

    I would never take Statins – read the label in the pharmacy (before you buy any) or research online first. Better to tackle the calcium problem using natural means and following your blood pressure to monitor progress to clear, healthy blood vessels and removing the risk of heart attck or stroke from the get-go. No point trying to reduce associated symptoms when it is too late.

    It’s like having to roughen the wall only after you see the wet cement render unable to stick and large patches fall off because of poor preparation.

  2. Well said Vic. At last the cholesterol scam perpetrated by the pharmaceutical companies is being revealed. It’s all about profit, not patient health. The problem of CVD is caused by inflammation, not just mineral deficiencies but due to unhealthy consumption of carbohydrates, especially sugar and junk food. Statins destroy the mevalonate biochemical pathway causing damage to Coenzyme Q10 and dolichol synthesis. These biochemicals are needed for heart muscle energy and cell membrane integrity. And yes cholesterol is produced by the glial cells in the brain “where it is needed for healthy neural function.” Cholesterol is also involved in hormone synthesis. As much cholesterol as is needed by the body is produced by the liver not by what we eat. Women with high cholesterol live longer. Never take a statin drug. Other side effects include CVD (yes!), diabetes, cancer, muscle weakness, and depression to name a few.

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