The most common causes of death in Sydney and Australia

Death comes for us all, but how?  These are the most likely causes.

National health data shows about 40 per cent of deaths in Australia in the past five years could be traced back to six causes – heart attacks, dementia, lung cancer, strokes, lung disease and diabetes.

But what are the top causes of death in your area? If you type your local council area into this interactive, we will show you the top 10 causes of death there.

You probably would have noticed that the top five causes of death in your area were largely the same as the top five causes throughout Australia. Heart attacks are by far the biggest cause of death Australia wide, and are the number one killer in almost every local government area in the country.

Where you might notice a difference is in the rate of deaths due to a particular culprit. Your area may have experienced a higher rate of lung cancer, heart attacks or dementia than the rest of the country.

That could be a sign that there is a high proportion of smokers or unhealthy people in your area, but it could also be because the population in your area is skewed towards older or younger residents.

And even though the top five causes of death don’t differ much around the country, once you look a bit further down the list of top causes, you will start noticing some variations.

For example, in the City of Sydney, Perth CBD and Melbourne city, drug overdoses were the seventh most common cause of death, with Sydney losing more than 100 people this way, the most in Australia between 2012 and 2016.

There were a disproportionate number of overdoses in Kings Cross in Sydney and Yarra in Melbourne, where there are needle exchanges. But overdose deaths from prescription opioids are rising in Australia and Sydney.

Regional differences are stark in places such as Broken Hill, in the far west of NSW, where the sixth most common cause of death was by dehydration, claiming the lives of 43 people between 2012 and 2016.

In the Hume municipality in Melbourne’s north, the sixth most common cause of death was influenza, while Ararat – a Victorian country town dubbed the fattest in Australia a few years ago – had deaths from diabetes at more than twice the national rate.

To compare the top causes of death in your area to those of the entire nation, see the below chart. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare had the grim task of counting 765,911 deaths over these five years to compile this table.

The data also show some state-by-state variations when it comes to the top causes of death.

Victorians were considerably more likely to die of accidental falls or the flu than people in other states or territories. Falls were the 10th most common cause of death there but did not figure in the top 20 causes of death in NSW.

In the Northern Territory and Western Australia, you are far more likely to die in a car crash. Road deaths were the sixth most common cause of death in the Northern Territory (three times higher than the national rate) and the 18th most common cause in Western Australia.

Violent assaults were also the 20th most common cause of death in the Northern Territory, five times the rate elsewhere in the country.

In Queensland, a larger proportion of people die from skin cancer, where rates of melanoma deaths were 25 per cent higher than the national rate.

The AIHW data show the median age of Australians who died between 2012 and 2016 was 78 for men and 84 for women.

Heart disease was the biggest killer for those aged between 45 and 64 and those over 75. Heart attacks are a distinct second among those aged between 65 and 74, as that is the age you are most likely to succumb to lung cancer.

Among those aged between 15 and 44, suicide was the most common cause of death.

If you are troubled by this report or experiencing a personal crisis, you can call Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224 636 or visit or