Premature death rates at an all time low

Back in 1979, the rate of premature deaths – meaning the deaths of people under the age of 75 – in Canada was 373 for every 100,000 Canadians. In 2008, that number was almost halved, down to 185 for every 100,000.

Each year the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada releases a report that updates the premature death rates and mortality measures. The updated report shows that avoidable deaths by disease or injury are down by 47 per cent over 30 years. The rate was 225 for every 100,000 in 1979, but decreased to 119 in 100,000 by 2008.

Deaths that could have been avoided by preventative health care dropped by 56 per cent, from 149 for every 100,000 in 1979 to 66. And the main drop in avoidable deaths came from heart disease, which decreased by an incredible 72 per cent. If death rates had not changed for circulatory diseases, the decrease in premature death would have only reached 19 per cent.

Jeremy Veillard, Vice President, Research and Analysis at CIHI said,“When we look into pan-Canadian results for avoidable deaths, we can determine the respective impact of prevention efforts and of health care improvements. Declines in some areas of avoidable mortality, such as circulatory diseases, demonstrate that great results can be achieved through collaboration across the health care system and other sectors, but, there is still work to be done. ”

Both rates and trends were observed over time for provincial and territorial variations.

One odd finding was that provinces who had the higher avoidable death rates in 2008 had lower avoidable death rates 30 years earlier, mostly due to a a very small reduction in injury based deaths.

It should also be noted that premature death rates vary widely, based on sex and income.

The rate of premature death for men dropped by 55 per cent, while the rate from women dropped considerably less, by 43 pecent. The decrease in motor vehicle and occupational injuries more common for men are the biggest reason for this. Despite this, the rate of avoidable death is still higher for men than women.

Women are more likely to die prematurely of lung or breast cancer, while men are more likely to succumb to a circulatory disease.

Those living in a well off neighborhood were also found to have twice less likely a chance of dying prematurely than those in the least affluent neighborhoods.


The report does give a comforting statistic. Canada has the third lowest avoidable death rate of all of the G7 countries, after Japan and France. Learning from these countries could help reduce untimely death even further.

Check out Statistics Canada’s report for the most recent information on the leading causes of death in Canada.

Sources: Canadian Institute for Health Information, Statistics Canada, The Star, Chatham Daily News, Globe and Mail

Photo ©  Jacob Wackerhausen

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