• Trends in national mortality rates •  

Graphs showing time trends in mortality rates

Percentage of deaths at age 60-69 that were ill-defined,

both sexes combined, for 10 countries: 1950s-2000s

Graph showing ill-defined mortality in 10 countries

Comment: If the cause of death is unknown, or known too imprecisely, then it is considered to be ill-defined. Some ill-defined deaths are inevitable, but some others are the result of poor death-coding practices. The higher the proportion of deaths that have an ill-defined cause, the greater the undercounting of known, defined, causes of death.

This graph shows the proportion of male and female deaths at age 60-69 years that had an ill-defined cause. In the mid-2000s, 4% of the French and Dutch deaths were ill-defined, compared with nearly 3% of the German and Danish deaths, about 1% of the Japanese and Canadian deaths, and appreciably less than 1% of the US, Australian, UK and New Zealand deaths. There were isolated poor years for Canada in 1985 (1.5%), 1990 (2.0%) and 1997 (2.4%), and an isolated poor year for Australia (1.7%) in 1995. In Denmark, the proportion rose steadily from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s, peaking at 8.5% ill-defined in 1996.

For an assessment of how complete and precise death certification is in different countries, see Counting the dead and what they died from... (Mathers et al., Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2005:83:171-7).

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