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2. Mortality from diseases of the circulatory system decreased for women, unchanged for men

During 2020, Finns most died of diseases of the circulatory system. Their share of causes of death has, however, decreased over the past ten years from 40 to 33 per cent.

Over the past ten years, mortality from diseases of the circulatory system relative to the size of the population and the standardised age structure has decreased by around one third among both men and women. In 2020, age-standardised mortality decreased further in the entire population by one per cent. Mortality among women decreased by three per cent and among men mortality remained on level with 2019 (Appendix figure 1). The average age of those dying of diseases of the circulatory system was 84 years.

Mortality from ischaemic heart disease decreased from the previous year

The most common disease of the circulatory system leading to death is ischaemic heart disease. It is still a significant cause of death even though mortality from it has decreased. In 2020, ischaemic heart disease caused nearly every fifth death among men and every eighth death among women. A total of 8,600 persons died of ischaemic heart disease.

In 1971, nearly one half of the men who died of ischaemic heart disease were of working age 15 to 64, while in 2020 around one in ten of them was of working age. The median average age for those dying of ischaemic heart disease was 65 years for men and 73 years for women in 1971, while the corresponding ages in 2020 were 79 and 88 years.

Figure 3 shows age-standardised ischaemic heart disease mortality. In age standardisation, the effect of the age structure of the population and its changes are eliminated. Then it is seen at which level mortality from ischaemic heart disease would be if the age structure of the population remained unchanged during the whole reference period. The new standard population of Eurostat is used as the standard population in age-standardisation (Appendix table 5). When the ageing of the population is eliminated from the figures by age standardisation, it can be seen that ischaemic heart disease mortality has fallen clearly over the last 40 years and particularly in the past 10 years. In 2020, mortality from ischaemic heart disease decreased further for both women (-6.5%) and men (-1.5%)

Figure 3. Age-standardised mortality from ischaemic heart disease in 1971 to 2020

Figure 3. Age-standardised mortality from ischaemic heart disease in 1971 to 2020

Persons who died of neoplasms were on average almost 10 years younger than those who died of diseases of the circulatory system

Of the main cause of death categories, Finns died second most of neoplasms. In 2020, a total of 13,400 persons died from neoplasms and they caused one in four deaths in Finland. Persons who died of neoplasms were on average almost 10 years younger than those who died of diseases of the circulatory system. The average age of those dying of neoplasms was 75 years.

Over the past ten years, age-standardised neoplasm mortality has decreased by 12 per cent for men and slightly less for women, by seven per cent (Appendix figure 2). In 2020, neoplasm mortality decreased among all men (-3%) and women (-1%) compared to the previous year. In contrast, neoplasm mortality increased among working-age men aged 15 to 64 (+4%) and decreased among women (-1%) compared to the year before. The most common type of cancer resulting in death was lung cancer and prostate cancer for men and breast cancer and lung cancer for women.

In 2020, a total of 1,450 men and nearly 900 women died from carcinoma of the larynx, carcinoma of the trachea and lung cancer. The difference between men and women in lung cancer mortality has narrowed since the 1980s as men’s lung cancer mortality has decreased and women’s has increased at the same time. Over the past ten years, women’s age-standardised lung cancer mortality has grown by nearly 10 per cent, while men’s mortality has simultaneously decreased by almost 30 per cent. In 2020, age-standardised lung cancer mortality decreased by nine per cent for men and grew by one per cent for women compared to 2019 (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Age-standardised mortality from carcinoma of larynx, trachea and lung in 1971 to 2020

Figure 4. Age-standardised mortality from carcinoma of larynx, trachea and lung in 1971 to 2020

Breast cancer mortality increased in 2020

The most common type of cancer causing death among women is breast cancer. In 2020, altogether 946 women died from breast cancer, which is 72 women more than in the year before. Breast cancer mortality was 34 deaths per 100,000 women. The average age of women who died of breast cancer was 74 years. Every fourth deceased was aged under 65.

Over the past ten years, breast cancer mortality relative to the number and age structure of women has decreased in total by nearly 10 per cent, even though in 2020 breast cancer mortality increased by five per cent from the year before (Figure 5).

After lung cancer, prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer resulting in death among men. In 2020, altogether 920 men died of prostate cancer, that is, slightly fewer than women of breast cancer. Men’s non-age-standardised prostate cancer mortality was 34 deaths per 100,000 men.

Above all, prostate cancer is a common cause of death for aged men: more than nine out of ten of the deceased were over 65 and the average age of the deceased was 81. Men's age-standardised prostate cancer mortality has decreased in the 2000s by over 20 per cent in the last ten years. In 2020, mortality from prostate cancer decreased further by four per cent from the previous year (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Age-standardised prostate cancer mortality for men and breast cancer mortality for women 1971 to 2020

Figure 5. Age-standardised prostate cancer mortality for men and breast cancer mortality for women 1971 to 2020

Source: Causes of death, Statistics Finland

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

Head of Department in charge: Hannele Orjala


Updated 10.12.2021

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Causes of death [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-5078. 2020, 2. Mortality from diseases of the circulatory system decreased for women, unchanged for men . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 3.7.2022].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2020/ksyyt_2020_2021-12-10_kat_002_en.html