1. Causes of death in 2018

In 2018, altogether 54,523 persons died, which is over 800 more than the year before. The shares of men and women were almost equal.

Age-standardised mortality decreased in 2018 by 0.4 per cent from the previous year. Men’s age-standardised mortality decreased more than that of women. Men’s and women's age-standardised mortality has decreased relatively evenly since the 1970s and the favourable development continued also in 2018 (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 2018

Figure 1. Age-standardised mortality in 1971 to 2018

In 2018, two out of three dead persons had turned 75 and more than one third had turned 85. More than 450 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 or older age than the median age at death.

Diseases of the circulatory system and neoplasms caused most deaths

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 2018, thirty-five per cent of deaths of Finns were caused by diseases of the circulatory system and 24 per cent by neoplasms. The commonest disease of the circulatory system was ischaemic heart disease, which caused nearly one-fifth of all deaths. The commonest cancers causing death were lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. The commonest types of cancer resulting in death were still lung cancer and prostate cancer for men and breast cancer and lung cancer for women.

Over 10,000 persons died from dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, which represented 19 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).

More deaths of alcohol-related causes than in the year before

Nearly 1,700 persons died of alcohol-related diseases and alcohol poisonings in 2018, which was good 100 more 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, age-standardised mortality from alcohol-related causes has decreased by over 10 per cent. 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 2018, suicides were committed by 810 persons, which is 14 fewer 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). Over the past five years, suicide mortality has decreased by around 10 per cent, slightly more among women than men. Three out of four of the persons who committed suicide were men, and their average age was 48 years. The average age of women when committing suicide was 50 years.

In 2018, close on 2,400 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 grown three years in a row. The number of fatalities from accidents was over 200 higher in 2018 than in 2015. Accident mortality in 2018 was clearly lower than ten years ago but nearly at the same level as five years earlier.

Table 1. Causes of death 2018

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females Age-standardised mortality rate Age-standandardised mortality rate
Number Number Number % % % Change
2017–2018, %
Change
2008–2018, %
Deaths total 54 523 27 182 27 341 100 100 100 –0,4 –12,1
Diseases of the circulatory system 18 827 9 547 9 280 35 35 34 –3,5 –28,4
Neoplasms 12 902 6 883 6 019 24 25 22 –2,1 –6,5
Dementia, Alzheimer's disease 10 120 3 273 6 847 19 12 25 +5,0 +47,1
Accidents 2 387 1 506 881 4 6 3 +1,0 –18,2
Disease of the respiratory system 2 234 1 303 931 4 5 3 +5,8 –11,9
Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 1 683 1 269 414 3 5 2 +7,7 –25,3
Suicides 810 618 192 1 2 1 –2,7 –25,5
Other causes of death 5 560 2 783 2 777 10 10 10 - -

Over 1,000 working-age persons died from alcohol-related causes

Of all persons that died during 2018, close on 8,000 were of working-age (aged 15 to 64), which was 14 per cent of all deaths. Two-thirds of them were men. The number of deaths among people of working-age had decreased clearly. Ten years ago, 3,000 more persons of working-age died annually.

The age-standardised mortality of working-age people in all causes of death has diminished in ten years by over one-quarter. 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 14 per cent for women in 2018, while twenty years ago the share was still one-fifth. By contrast, diseases of the circulatory system and neoplasms caused nearly as large a share of deaths among working-age men.

The most common cancer resulting in death for working-age women was breast cancer, which caused the death of nearly 300 women in 2018 (Appendix table 1c). Correspondingly, for working-age men, the most common cancer resulting in death was lung cancer (Appendix table 1b).

In 2018, over 1,000 working-age persons died from alcohol-related causes. This was 44 persons more than in 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. Three times more working-age men died from alcohol-related causes than women of the same age.

Table 2. Main causes of death among working-age population (aged 15 to 64) in 2018

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females
Number Number Number % % %
Deaths total 7 827 5 274 2 553 100 100 100
Neoplasms 2 369 1 257  1 112  30 24 44
Diseases of the circulatory system 1 708 1 338 370 22 25 14
Disease of the respiratory system 176 109 67 2 2 3
Alcohol related diseases and
accidental poisoning by alcohol
1 032 790 242 13 15 9
Accidents 777 600 177 10 11 7
Suicides 601 454 147 8 9 6
Other causes of death 1 164 726 438 15 14 17

More than every fifth person aged over 65 died from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

Ninety per cent of women that died in 2018 were aged 65 or over and 80 per cent of men. 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.

Figure 2. Proportions of causes of death by age groups in 2018

Figure 2. Proportions of causes of death by age groups in 2018

Persons aged over 65 died most from diseases of the circulatory system that caused 37 per cent of deaths. The share of diseases of the circulatory system in causes of death grows with age: One-quarter of those aged 60 to 64 died from diseases of the circulatory system and nearly one-half of those aged over 95 (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 considerably in recent years. In 2018, dementia (incl. Alzheimer’s disease) was almost as common a cause of death for elderly people as neoplasms. During 2018, more than one in five deceased persons aged 65 or over died from dementia and more than one-third of those aged 95 or over.

In 2018, one in four of the persons who committed a suicide were aged 65 or over. The share of suicides in causes of death for elderly people was, 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 2016.

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 2018

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females
Number Number Number % % %
Deaths total 46 529 21 821 24 708 100 100 100
Diseases of the circulatory system 17 117 8 208 8 909 37 38 36
Neoplasms 10 514 5 618 4 896 23 26 20
Dementia, Alzheimer's disease 10 085 3 258 6 827 22 15 28
Disease of the respiratory system 2 053 1 193 860 4 5 3
Diseases of the digestive system (excl. alcohol-related diseases) 1 046 439 607 2 2 2
Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 651 479 172 1 2 1
Accidents 1 602 899 703 3 4 3
Suicides 203 160 43 0 1 0
Other causes of death 3 258 1 567 1 691 7 7 7

Source: Causes of death, Statistics Finland

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

Director in charge: Jari Tarkoma


Updated 16.12.2019

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Causes of death [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-5078. 2018, 1. Causes of death in 2018 . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 28.11.2021].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2018/ksyyt_2018_2019-12-16_kat_001_en.html