1. Causes of death in 2016

In 2016, altogether 54,000 persons died, of which the shares of men and women were equal. The number of deaths grew by close on 1,700 persons from the year before.

Age-standardised mortality grew in 2016 by 0.7 per cent year-on-year, remaining, however, below the level of 2014. In 2016, men’s age-standardised mortality grew by 1.4 per cent and women’s by 0.1 per cent from 2015. Men’s and women's age-standardised mortality has decreased relatively evenly since the 1970s (Figure 1). A slight increase in total mortality for men occurred last in 2009 and in 1998. For women, mortality has grown in the 2000s, for example, in 2002, 2012 and 2014. 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 2016

Figure 1. Age-standardised mortality in 1971 to 2016

In 2016, two out of three dead persons had turned 75 and more than one third had turned 85. Nearly 400 of the deceased were aged 100 or over. 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.

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 2016, 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 around one-fifth of all deaths. The most common types of cancer leading to death for men were lung cancer and prostate cancer, and correspondingly for women breast cancer and lung cancer.

Altogether 9,200 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 five 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).

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

Good 1,700 persons died of alcohol-related diseases and alcohol poisonings in 2016, which was good 60 more than in the previous year. The share of alcohol-related causes in all causes of death was three per cent. In the past ten years, mortality from alcohol-related causes has decreased by one fifth. At the same time, mortality from alcohol among both men and women aged 65 or over has grown while, correspondingly, in younger age groups mortality from alcohol has decreased.

In 2016, suicides were committed by close on 800 persons, which was around 60 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). In 2016, suicide mortality was nearly 30 per cent lower than ten years ago. The median average age of men who committed suicide was 49 years and of women 50 years.

In 2016, over 2,200 persons died in accidents, being four per cent of deaths, when alcohol poisonings are included in alcohol-related deaths in the time series classification. The number of fatalities from accidents was 82 more than in the year before. The number of fatalities from accidents (excl. accidental alcohol poisonings) has, however, decreased by over ten per cent since 2006, when 2,500 persons died in accidents.

Table 1. Causes of death 2016

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females Age-standardised mortality rate Age-standandardised mortality rate
Number Number Number % % % Change 2015–2016, % Change 2006–2016, %
01-54 Deaths total 53 964 26 947 27 017 100 100 100 +0,7 -11,9
27-30 Diseases of the circulatory system 19 665 9 758 9 907 36 36 37 -1,0 -24,7
04-22 Neoplasms 12 854 6 824 6 030 24 25 22 +0,8 -6,0
25 Dementia, Alzheimer's disease 9 175 2 960 6 215 17 11 23 +3,5 +45,1
42-49 Accidents 2 243 1 403 840 4 5 3 +2,0 -24,4
41 Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 1 730 1 333 397 3 5 1 +3,8 -19,6
31-35 Disease of the respiratory system 2 133 1 274 859 4 5 3 +7,6 -24,2
50 Suicides 787 615 172 1 2 1 +6,7 -29,1
Other causes of death 5 377 2 780 2 597 10 10 10 - -

Main cause of death for working-age people was neoplasms

In 2016, altogether 8,200 persons of working-age died, which was 15 per cent of all deaths. The same number of working-age people died as in the previous year. The age-standardised mortality of working-age people has diminished in ten years by nearly one-quarter.

In 2016, every fifth man that died was of working age and every tenth woman. 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-five per cent of working age women died from neoplasms. The share of diseases of the circulatory system of deaths was 15 per cent for women in 2016, while twenty years ago the share was still close on one quarter. 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 280 working-age women in 2016 (Appendix table 2c). For working-age men, the most common cancer resulting in death was lung cancer (Appendix table 2b).

In 2016, in total 1,100 working-age persons died from alcohol-related causes. The figure was nearly the same as 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. Working-age men die of alcohol-related causes clearly more often than women. Of men who died at working-age, nearly one in seven died from alcohol-related causes, while the share for women was one in ten.

Table 2. Main causes of death among working-age population (aged 15 to 64) in 2016

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females
Number Number Number % % %
01-54 Deaths total 8 182 5 613 2 569 100 100 100
04-22 Neoplasms 2 498 1 337  1 161  31 24 45
27-30 Diseases of the circulatory system 1 830 1 442 388 22 26 15
31-35 Disease of the respiratory system 239 157 82 3 3 3
41 Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 1 100 857 243 13 15 9
42-49 Accidents 730 582 148 9 10 6
50 Suicides 600 471 129 7 8 5
Other causes of death 1 185 767 418 14 14 16

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

Ninety per cent of women and 78 per cent of men who died in 2016 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 almost 40 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 2016, dementia was the third most common cause of death category for elderly people after diseases of the circulatory system and neoplasms. One in five deceased persons aged 65 or over died from dementia and one-third of those aged 95 or over.

In 2016, 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 2014.

Additional information on the causes of death of persons of different ages can be found in Appendix tables 2a to 2c and database tables.

Table 3. Main causes of death among persons aged 65 or over in 2016

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females
Number Number Number % % %
01-54 Deaths total 45 597 21 232 24 365 100 100 100
27-30 Diseases of the circulatory system 17 832 8 314 9 518 39 39 39
04-22 Neoplasms 10 332 5 476 4 856 23 26 20
25 Dementia, Alzheimer's disease 9 131 2 939 6 192 20 14 25
31-35 Disease of the respiratory system 1 890 1 115 775 4 5 3
36 Diseases of the digestive system (excl. alcohol-related diseases) 1 049 440 609 2 2 2
41 Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 630 476 154 1 2 1
42-49 Accidents 1 496 810 686 3 4 3
Suicides 184 142 42 0 1 0
Other causes of death 3 053 1 520 1 533 7 7 6

Figure 2. Proportions of causes of death by age groups in 2016

Figure 2. Proportions of causes of death by age groups in 2016

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 29.12.2017

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Causes of death [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-5078. 2016, 1. Causes of death in 2016 . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 18.7.2019].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2016/ksyyt_2016_2017-12-29_kat_001_en.html