Nearly 245,000 older people (Indigenous Australians aged 50 and over, and non-Indigenous Australians aged 65 and over) died between July 2012 and June 2014. This report presents information on the cause of death patterns, and any aged care services they used before their death. This is the first time this analysis has been done in Australia.
Main causes of death
The leading causes of death for these older Australians were Coronary heart disease (14% of deaths), Dementia (9%), Cerebrovascular disease (stroke) (8%), Lung cancer (5%), Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (5%) and Diabetes (3%).
These 6 conditions also account for more than 40% of the total burden of disease for older Australians.
Cause of death patterns varied depending on whether people had used aged care
Four in 5 (80%) of people in the study cohort had used an aged care program sometime before their death. Cause of death patterns differed somewhat between this group and people who had not used any aged care.
Coronary heart disease (14%) was the leading underlying cause of death for people who had used aged care, followed by Dementia (11%). For people who had not used aged care, Coronary heart disease was also the leading underlying cause of death (16%), but this was followed by Lung cancer (9%). Cancer-related causes were more common among those who had not used any aged care.
Causes of death patterns varied depending on the last aged care program used
While the leading underlying causes of death were relatively similar across each group, there were some differences.
Coronary heart disease was the leading underlying cause of death for people who had last used respite residential aged care (RRAC), Home and Community Care (HACC), aged care packages, or Transition Care Programme (TCP). But Dementia was the leading cause of death for people who had last used permanent residential aged care (PRAC).
Cancer-related causes were more common among people who had last used community-based aged care programs.
These differences might reflect not only the way death rates vary by age for various diseases, but also the age at which particular aged care programs are commonly used.
The interaction with age was looked at in closer detail for the 3 largest groups—people who had last used PRAC, those who had last used HACC, and those who had never used aged care. Underlying cause-of-death patterns varied further—cancer-related causes were more commonly reported for younger people, while Dementia and Coronary heart disease were more common among older ages.