1. Causes of death in 2017

In 2017, altogether 53,670 persons died, which is almost 300 fewer than the year before. The shares of men and women in deaths were almost equal.

Age-standardised mortality decreased in 2017 by 2.8 per cent from the previous year. Men’s age-standardised mortality decreased slightly more than women’s. Men’s and women's age-standardised mortality has decreased relatively evenly since the 1970s and the favourable development still continued in 2017 (Figure 1). In addition to the population, the age-standardised mortality rate takes into account the changes in the population's age structure. The standardisation is necessary so that changes in mortality not due to the ageing of the population structure can be highlighted.

Figure 1. Age-standardised mortality in 1971 to 2017

Figure 1. Age-standardised mortality in 1971 to 2017

In 2017, two out of three dead persons had turned 75 and more than one third had turned 85. More than 400 of the deceased had turned 100. The average age at death (median) was 85 years for women and 77 years for men, while ten years ago the average ages were 83 for women and 74 for men. The median describes the middle value, that is, one-half of all persons that died, died at a younger age than the median age and one-half at an older age than the median age.

Due to the age structure of persons who died, the typical causes of death of older age groups dominate the causes of death distribution of the entire population (Table 1). In 2017, thirty-six per cent of deaths of Finns were caused by diseases of the circulatory system and 24 per cent by neoplasms. The most common disease of the circulatory system was ischaemic heart disease, which caused one-fifth of all deaths. The commonest cancers causing death were lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. Even though the number of deaths due to pancreatic cancer has increased during the past ten years, age-standardised mortality from pancreatic cancer has not increased, but remained unchanged. The most common types of cancer leading to death for men were still lung cancer and prostate cancer, and correspondingly for women breast cancer and lung cancer.

Altogether 9,400 persons died from dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, which represented 17 per cent of all deaths. The number of deaths caused by dementia has grown rapidly in the past decade partly due to the ageing of the population. One in four deaths among women and one in ten deaths among men were caused by dementia. More than double the number of women die from dementia than the number of men, which is mainly because women live longer than men. There are no clear differences in age-standardised dementia mortality among sexes (Figure 6).

Fewer deaths of alcohol-related causes and more suicides than in the year before

Close on 1,600 persons died of alcohol-related diseases and alcohol poisonings in 2017, which was nearly 200 fewer than in the previous year. The share of alcohol-related causes in all causes of death was three per cent. In the past five years, mortality from alcohol-related causes has decreased by one fifth. Among men the mortality from alcohol has decreased more than among women. At the same time, mortality from alcohol among both women aged 65 or over and men aged 75 or over has grown, while correspondingly in younger age groups mortality from alcohol has decreased.

In 2017, suicides were committed by more than 800 persons, which was over 30 more than in the year before. The number of suicides was at its highest in 1990, when there were over 1,500 suicides in Finland. Since then, suicide mortality has decreased clearly (Figure 12). During the past five years men’s suicide mortality has decreased by around 10 per cent, while correspondingly women’s suicide mortality is on level with five years ago. Three out of four of the persons who committed suicide were men, and their average age was 46 years. The average age for women who committed suicide was 49 years.

In 2017, over 2,300 persons died in accidents, being four per cent of all deaths, when alcohol poisonings are included in alcohol-related deaths in the time series classification. The number of fatalities from accidents has increased in the past few years. In 2017, there were almost 100 more fatalities from accidents than in the year before. Accident mortality is clearly lower than ten years ago, but compared with the figures five years ago the development has not been as favourable. Men’s accident mortality was nearly on the same level (+1.1%) in 2017 as five years ago, while women’s accident mortality had decreased by over 10 per cent.

Table 1. Causes of death 2017

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females Age-standardised mortality rate Age-standandardised mortality rate
Number Number Number % % % Change
2016–2017, %
Change
2007–2017, %
Deaths total 53 670 26 859 26 811 100 100 100 –2,8 –13,9
Diseases of the circulatory system 19 077 9 553 9 524 36 36 36 –5,5 –27,9
Neoplasms 12 949 6 905 6 044 24 26 23 –1,2 –5,4
Dementia, Alzheimer's disease 9 390 3 059 6 331 17 11 24 –0,6 +41,9
Accidents 2 325 1 519 806 4 6 3 +2,2 –20,3
Disease of the respiratory system 2 084 1 263 821 4 5 3 –5,0 –29,4
Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 1 558 1 160 398 3 4 1 –10,5 –32,3
Suicides 824 611 213 2 2 1 +4,2 –20,6
Other causes of death 5 463 2 789 2 674 10 10 10 - -

A total of 2,400 working-age persons died of neoplasms

During 2017, close on 8,000 persons of working-age (15 to 64 years) died, which is 15 per cent of all deaths. Every fifth man and every tenth woman that died was of working-age. The number of deaths among people of working-age has decreased clearly. Ten years ago still, almost 3,000 more persons of working-age died annually.

The age-standardised mortality of working-age persons from all causes of death has decreased by more than one-quarter in ten years. The mortality of working-age men is still more than double compared to women, even though the mortality of men has diminished faster than that of women, which has decreased the difference in mortality between sexes.

Working-age people died most from neoplasms and from diseases of the circulatory system (Table 2). More than one-half of deceased working-age people died of these two causes. Forty-four per cent of women who died in working-age died from neoplasms. The share of diseases of the circulatory system of deaths was 16 per cent for women in 2017, while twenty years ago the share was still one-fifth. For working-age men, the importance of diseases of the circulatory system in causes of death is still slightly higher than that of neoplasms.

The most common cancer resulting in death for women was breast cancer, which caused the death of around 270 working-age women in 2017 (Appendix table 1c). For working-age men, the most common cancer resulting in death was lung cancer (Appendix table 1b).

In 2017, around 1,000 working-age persons died from alcohol-related causes. This was more than 100 fewer than the year before. The mortality from alcohol for working-age men and women has declined clearly from the record level of 2007, when there were 1,800 deaths. Clearly more working-age men die of alcohol-related causes than women of the same age.

Table 2. Main causes of death among working-age population (aged 15 to 64) in 2017

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females
Number Number Number % % %
Deaths total 7 936 5 358 2 578 100 100 100
Neoplasms 2 441 1 300  1 141  31 24 44
Diseases of the circulatory system 1 809 1 404 405 23 26 16
Disease of the respiratory system 190 129 61 2 2 2
Alcohol related diseases and
accidental poisoning by alcohol
988 752 236 12 14 9
Accidents 766 606 160 10 11 6
Suicides 634 474 160 8 9 6
Other causes of death 1 108 693 415 14 13 16

Persons aged over 65 died most from diseases of the circulatory system

Ninety per cent of women and 80 per cent of men who died in 2017 had turned 65. The causes of death structure for older age groups differs from that of the working-age population, for example, the relative share of suicides, accidents and alcohol-related causes of death is smaller than among working-age people.

Persons aged over 65 died most from diseases of the circulatory system that caused 38 per cent of deaths. The share of diseases of the circulatory system in causes of death grows with age: For those aged 65 to 69 they caused the death of under one-third and for those aged over 95 nearly one-half (Figure 2). Correspondingly, the share of neoplasms in causes of death diminishes after the age of 70. The share of neoplasms for persons aged 65 to 69 was 40 per cent and for those aged over 95 it was only six per cent.

The importance of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, as a cause of death has grown strongly. In 2017, dementia was the third most common cause of death category for elderly people after diseases of the circulatory system and neoplasms. During 2017, one in five deceased persons aged 65 or over died from dementia and more than one-third of those aged 95 or over.

In 2017, more than one in five persons who committed suicide were aged 65 or over. The share of suicides in causes of death for elderly people is, however, very low, under one per cent. In an international comparison, the suicide mortality of Finns aged over 65 did not differ from the average for EU countries in 2015.

Additional information on the causes of death of persons of different ages can be found in Appendix tables 1a to 1c and database tables.

Table 3. Main causes of death among persons aged 65 or over in 2017

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females
Number Number Number % % %
Deaths total 45 552 21 404 24 148 100 100 100
Diseases of the circulatory system 17 266 8 148 9 118 38 38 38
Neoplasms 10 484 5 591 4 893 23 26 20
Dementia, Alzheimer's disease 9 346 3 037 6 309 21 14 26
Disease of the respiratory system 1 893 1 134 759 4 5 3
Diseases of the digestive system (excl. alcohol-related diseases) 1 042 466 576 2 2 2
Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 570 408 162 1 2 1
Accidents 1 544 903 641 3 4 3
Suicides 185 135 50 0 1 0
Other causes of death 3 222 1 582 1 640 7 7 7

Figure 2. Proportions of causes of death by age groups in 2017

Figure 2. Proportions of causes of death by age groups in 2017

Source: Causes of death, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Airi Pajunen 029 551 3605, Jari Hellanto 029 551 3291, Kati Taskinen 029 551 3648, kuolemansyyt@stat.fi

Director in charge: Jari Tarkoma


Updated 17.12.2018

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Causes of death [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-5078. 2017, 1. Causes of death in 2017 . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 18.9.2019].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2017/ksyyt_2017_2018-12-17_kat_001_en.html