Objective: To describe variation in all cause and selected cause-specific mortality rates across Australia.
Methods: Mortality and population data for 1997 were obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. All cause and selected cause-specific mortality rates were calculated and directly standardised to the 1997 Australian population in 5-year age groups. Selected major causes of death included cancer, coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, accidents and suicide. Rates are reported by statistical division, and State and Territory.
Results: All cause age-standardised mortality was 6.98 per 1000 in 1997 and this varied 2-fold from a low in the statistical division of Pilbara, Western Australia (5.78, 95% confidence interval 5.06-6.56), to a high in Northern Territory--excluding Darwin (11.30, 10.67-11.98). Similar mortality variation (all p < 0.0001) exists for cancer (1.01-2.23 per 1000) and coronary artery disease (0.99-2.23 per 1000), the two biggest killers. Larger variation (all p < 0.0001) exists for cerebrovascular disease (0.7-11.8 per 10,000), diabetes (0.7-6.9 per 10,000), accidents (1.7-7.2 per 10,000) and suicide (0.6-3.8 per 10,000). Less marked variation was observed when analysed by State and Territory, but Northern Territory consistently has the highest age-standardised mortality rates.
Conclusions: Analysed by statistical division, substantial mortality gradients exist across Australia, suggesting an inequitable distribution of the determinants of health. Further research is required to better understand this heterogeneity.