• Trends in national mortality rates •  

Graphs showing time trends in mortality rates

Male mortality at age 35-69 years for selected causes of death:

Australia, 1952-2004

Graph showing Australian mortality, 1952-2003

Comment: This is the same graph as the preceding one (no. 311), except that the maximum value on the vertical axis is only about one-seventh as big. Lung cancer mortality peaked in 1982. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) has an artefactual jump—indicated here by a dotted line—which resulted from a change in coding practices in the late 1960s. This graph illustrates, quite inadvertently, the recent astronishing, nearly freefall, decline in coronary heart disease mortality. Assuming that this trend has continued, then by the year of this writing (2012), coronary heart disease mortality must have already fallen to levels similar to those of other moderately common causes of death, including those shown in this figure: in which case, for the first time in perhaps a century, coronary heart disease would not now be a sui generis cause of death for middle-aged Australian males.

Method: Mortality rates calculated using data from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Division, then standardised for age (by taking unweighted averages of component rates) and smoothed (as weighted 3-year moving averages). For details, see the Info page.

Caution: Trends can reflect not only changes in disease occurrence or treatment, but also changes in how a cause of death is defined or coded.

WHO mortality rates for particular countries, ages and causes of death