1. Causes of death in 2019

During 2019, around 54,000 persons with a municipality of residence in Finland died. This is more than 500 fewer persons than in the year before. Based on death certificates, around 250 of them died abroad, the rest died in Finland. Excluded from the statistics are persons residing temporarily in Finland, of whom around 150 persons died in Finland.

In 2019, two out of three deceased 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 deceased persons died at a younger age and one half at an older age than the median age.

The age-standardised total mortality relative to the population size and age structure decreased by over three per cent from the year before. Women's mortality decreased slightly more than men's. Men’s and women's age-standardised total mortality has decreased relatively evenly since the 1970s and the favourable development also continued in 2019 (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 2019

Figure 1. Age-standardised mortality in 1971 to 2019

Diseases of the circulatory system and neoplasms caused most deaths

Due to the age structure of deceased persons, the typical causes of death of older age groups dominate the causes of death distribution of the entire population (Table 1). In 2019, thirty-four per cent of deaths of Finns were caused by diseases of the circulatory system and 25 per cent by neoplasms. The most common disease of the circulatory system was ischaemic heart disease, which caused nearly every sixth death. The most common cancers causing death were lung cancer and cancer of the lymphatic and blood-forming tissues.

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 eight deaths among men were caused by dementia. Almost double the number of women died from dementia compared to men, which is mainly because women live longer than men. There are no clear differences in age-standardised dementia mortality between genders (Figure 6).

As many deaths of alcohol-related causes as in the year before

Around 1,700 persons died of alcohol-related diseases and alcohol poisonings in 2019, which is nearly as many as 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 around 10 per cent. At the same time, mortality related to alcohol among men aged 65 or over and women aged 75 or over has grown, while, correspondingly, mortality from alcohol especially among younger men has decreased.

In 2019, suicides were committed by 746 persons, which is 64 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 six per cent, slightly more among men than women. Three out of four of those who committed suicide were men. The average age of both men and women when committing suicide was 47 years.

In 2019, over 2,200 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 had grown for three years in a row in 2016 to 2018. However, the number of fatalities from accidents was 142 lower in 2019 than in 2018. Accident mortality in 2019 was clearly lower than ten years ago but at the same level as five years earlier.

Table 1. Causes of death 2019

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females Age-standardised mortality rate Age-standandardised mortality rate
Number Number Number % % % Change
2018–2019, %
Change
2009–2019, %
Deaths total 53 962 27 088 26 874 100 100 100 -3,3 -14,3
Diseases of the circulatory system 18 267 9 255 9 012 34 34 34 -5,5 -30,6
Neoplasms 13 267 7 097 6 170 25 26 23 +0,9 -4,3
Dementia, Alzheimer's disease 10 153 3 401 6 752 19 13 25 -2,7 +34,7
Accidents 2 245 1 412 833 4 5 3 -7,4 -21,1
Disease of the respiratory system 1 969 1 205 764 4 4 3 -14,3 -30,6
Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 1 718 1 306 412 3 5 2 +1,0 -22,1
Suicides 746 567 179 1 2 1 -6,8 –29,9
Other causes of death 5 597 2 845 2 752 10 11 10 - -

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

Of all persons that died during 2019, close on 7,400 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. Still ten years ago, almost 3,300 more persons of working age died every year.

The age-standardised mortality of working-age people 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 narrowed the difference in mortality between gender.

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. Altogether 42 per cent of women who died in working age died from neoplasms, but only 24 per cent of men. The share of diseases of the circulatory system of causes of death was 15 per cent for women in 2019, 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 among working-age women was breast cancer, which caused the death of over 200 women in 2019 (Appendix table 1c). Correspondingly, for working-age men, the most common cancer resulting in death was lung cancer (Appendix table 1b).

In 2019, around 1,000 working-age persons died from alcohol-related causes. The number was almost the same as in the previous year. 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. Nearly 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 2019

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Age-standardised mortality rate Age-standandardised mortality rate
Number Number Number % Change
2018–2019, %
Change
2009–2019, %
Deaths total 7 368 4 960 2 408 100 –5,1 –26,9
Neoplasms 2 200 1 187 1 013 30 –6,0 –20,3
Diseases of the circulatory system 1 609 1 254 355 22 –5,1 –30,5
Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 1 002 748 254 14 –2,4 –36,0
Accidents 709 564 145 10 –9,0 –32,9
Suicides 573 431 142 8 –4,0 –31,6
Other causes of death 1 275 776 499 17 - -

Dementia and Alzheimer's disease caused one in four deaths among persons aged over 75

Seventy-seven per cent of women and 57 per cent of men who died in 2019 were aged 75 or over. 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 2019

Figure 2. Proportions of causes of death by age groups in 2019

Most persons aged over 75 died from diseases of the circulatory system, which caused 38 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 deceased aged 65 to 69 was over 40 per cent and for those aged over 95 it was only seven per cent.

The importance of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, as a cause of death has grown clearly in recent years. In 2019, dementia (incl. Alzheimer’s disease) was a more common cause of death for elderly people than neoplasms. During 2019, more than one in four deceased person aged 75 or over died from dementia and more than one third of those aged 95 or over.

In 2019, every tenth person who committed suicide was aged 75 or over. The share of suicides in causes of death for elderly people was, however, very low, clearly below 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 75 or over in 2019

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females
Number Number Number % % %
Deaths total 36 095 15 460 20 635 100 100 100
Diseases of the circulatory system 13 633 5 860 7 773 38 38 38
Dementia, Alzheimer's disease 9 674 3 146 6 528 27 20 32
Neoplasms 6 883 3 498 3 385 19 23 16
Disease of the respiratory system 1 306 780 526 4 5 3
Diseases of the digestive system (excl. alcohol-related diseases) 854 339 515 2 2 2
Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 160 117 43 0 1 0
Accidents 1 161 570 591 3 4 3
Suicides 87 69 18 0 0 0
Other causes of death 2 337 1 081 1 256 6 7 6

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 14.12.2020

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Causes of death [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-5078. 2019, 1. Causes of death in 2019 . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 1.8.2021].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2019/ksyyt_2019_2020-12-14_kat_001_en.html