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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin
 
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spacing1What do we know about deaths among Indigenous people?

What is the age pattern of Indigenous deaths?

The age pattern of deaths for Indigenous people is different to that of other Australians. Measures used for assessment include the median age at death and age-specific death rates. (The median age at death, which is the age below which 50% of people die, partly reflects the age structures of the respective populations and is a less precise measure than age-specific death rates.)

In 2012, there were 2,620 deaths registered in Australia where the deceased person was identified as Indigenous [1].

In 2012, the median age at death for Indigenous men ranged from 49.9 years for those living in the NT to 60.6 years for those living in NSW [1]. Levels were around 20 years less than those for non-Indigenous males, which ranged from 67.1 (NT) to 80.2 years (SA). For Indigenous women, it ranged from 52.8 years for those living in the NT to 63.9 years for those living in NSW and Qld. Levels were around also 20 years less than those for non-Indigenous females, which ranged from 74.0 (NT) to 85.6 years (SA).

The most recent estimates from the ABS show that an Indigenous male born in 2010-2012 was likely to live to 69.1 years, about 10 years less than a non-Indigenous male (who could expect to live to 79.7 years) (Figure 1) [2]. An Indigenous female born in 2010-2012 was likely to live to 73.7 years, which is almost 10 years less than a non-Indigenous woman (83.1 years). (There have been a number of changes to these calculated throughout time, so recent estimates cannot be compared to older estimates.)

Figure 1. Expectations of life at birth for Indigenous and non-Indigenous males and females 2010-2012

Expectations of life at birth for Indigenous and non-Indigenous boys and girls, 2010-2012

Source ABS, 2013 [2]

What are the main causes of death among Indigenous people?

The leading causes of death in 2012 for Indigenous people were:

What is the Indigenous infant mortality rate?

Babies born to Indigenous women are twice as likely to die in their first year than those born to non-Indigenous women [1]. In 2010-2012, the Indigenous infant mortality rate was highest in the NT and lowest in NSW.

What do we know about Indigenous maternal mortality?

In 2003-2005 (the most recent period for which detailed data are available), 6 of the 60 (10%) maternal deaths where Indigenous status was known were of Indigenous women (Indigenous status was not reported in 8% of the deaths) [4].

Reflecting the higher rate of confinements among Indigenous women, the maternal mortality ratio for Indigenous women in 2003-2005 was 21.5 deaths per 100,000 confinements, almost three times higher than the ratio of 7.9 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous women [4]. For direct maternal deaths, the ratio was 7.2 for Indigenous women compared with 3.6 for non-Indigenous women.

References

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) Deaths, Australia, 2012. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) Life tables for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2010-2012. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) Causes of death, Australia, 2012. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  4. Sullivan E, Hall B, King J (2008) Maternal deaths in Australia 2003-2005. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
 
Last updated: 25 September 2014
 
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