Development of a new National Women’s Health Policy Consultation Discussion Paper 2009

4. Overview of Australian Women’s Health

Page last updated: 20 April 2009

4.1 Leading causes of death and burden of disease

Table 1 below sets out the leading causes of female death and burden of disease (years of `healthy life' lost due to disease or injury8) in Australia. Ischaemic (coronary) heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer of the trachea, lung and breast, and anxiety and depression are the leading causes of death and burden of disease.
Table 1. Females – leading causes of death (2006)9 and burden of disease (2003)10
Cause of death*
1 Ischaemic heart disease - angina, blocked arteries of the heart and heart attacks (16.6%) Anxiety and depression (10%)
2 Stroke (10.7%) Ischaemic heart disease (8.9%)
3 Dementia and Alzheimer's (6.9%) Burden of disease Stroke (5.1%)
4 Trachea and lung cancer (4.1%) Type 2 diabetes (4.9%)
5 Breast cancer (4.0%)
Dementia (4.8%)
6 Chronic lower respiratory diseases - asthma, bronchitis and emphysema (3.8%) Breast cancer (4.8%)
7 Diabetes (2.8%) Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - of the lungs (3.0%)
8 Heart failure (2.7%) Lung cancer (2.7%)
9 Diseases of the kidney and urinary system (2.7%)
Asthma (2.7%)
10 Colon and rectum cancer (2.6%) Colorectal cancer (2.3%)
*65,183 Australian females died in 2006

Changes in the leading causes of death with increasing age reflect the ageing process and longer exposure to risk factors. As set out in Table 2, for girls and young women, injury and poisoning are the major causes of death. Among women in the 25–84 age groups, cancer is the leading cause of death, and for women aged 85 and over, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause.

Asthma is the leading contributor to burden of disease for the 0–14 age group, anxiety and depression in the 15–44 age group, breast cancer in the 45–64 group, and ischaemic heart disease in the 65 and over group.
Table 2: Females by age: leading causes of death (2006)11 and burden of disease (2003)12
Years Cause of death Years Burden of disease
1-14 Injury and poisoning (28.6%) 0-14 Asthma (17.0% of burden)
15-24
Injury and poisoning (56.1%) 15-24 Anxiety and depression (31.8%)
25-44 Cancer - all neoplasms* (35.5%) 25-44 Anxiety and depression (24.4%)
45-64 Cancer - all neoplasms (57.5%) 45-64 Breast cancer (10.7%)
65-84 Cancer - all neoplasms (33.7%) 65-74 Ischaemic heart disease (11.4%)
85+ Cardiovascular disease** (49.4%) 75+ Ischaemic heart disease (18.7%)
*tumours **includes ischaemic (coronary) heart disease and stroke

8 Begg S. Vos T. Barker B. Stevenson C. Stanley L. Lopez A.D. 2007. The Burden of Disease and Injury in Australia 2003. AIHW, Canberra
9 ABS. 2008. Causes of Death, Australia, 2006. ABS, Canberra. Cat. No. 3303.0.
10 Begg S. Vos T. Barker B. Stevenson C. Stanley L. Lopez A.D. 2007. The Burden of Disease and Injury in Australia 2003. AIHW, Canberra
11 AIHW Mortality FAQs National Mortality Database. 2006 http://www.aihw.gov.au/mortality/data/faqs.cfm
12 Begg S. Vos T. Barker B. Stevenson C. Stanley L. Lopez A.D. 2007. The Burden of Disease and Injury in Australia 2003.