2. Mortality from diseases of the circulatory system decreased further in 2019

Most Finns died of diseases of the circulatory system in 2019. Their share of causes of death has, however, decreased over the past ten years from 41 to 34 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 30 per cent among men and by 32 per cent among women. In 2019, the age-standardised mortality contracted further both for women (-5%) and men (-6%) compared to the previous year (Appendix figure 1).

Persons dying of ischaemic heart disease ever older

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 2019, ischaemic heart disease caused nearly every fifth death among men and nearly every seventh death for 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, while in 2019 only 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 2019 were 80 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. 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 2019, ischaemic heart disease mortality decreased further for both men and women.

Figure 3. Age-standardised mortality from ischaemic heart disease in 1971 to 2019

Figure 3. Age-standardised mortality from ischaemic heart disease in 1971 to 2019

More than 13,000 Finns died of neoplasms in 2019

Of the main cause of death categories, second most Finns died of neoplasms. In 2019, nearly 13,300 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 has shifted eight years up from the 1970s, while the average age of those dying of diseases of the circulatory system had moved 10 years up.

Over the past ten years, age-standardised neoplasm mortality has decreased by eight per cent for men and slightly less for women, or by three per cent (Appendix figure 2). However, in 2019, neoplasm mortality increased among all men (+1.7%) and women (+0.8%) compared with the previous year. By contrast, neoplasm mortality among working-age people decreased clearly (-6%) from 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 2019, a total of over 1,500 men and 800 women died from malignant neoplasm of larynx, trachea, bronchus and lung. 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 20 per cent, while men’s mortality has simultaneously decreased by nearly 20 per cent. In 2019, age-standardised lung cancer mortality increased by one per cent for men and by two per cent for women compared with 2018 (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Age-standardised mortality from carcinoma of larynx, trachea and lung in 1971 to 2019

Figure 4. Age-standardised mortality from carcinoma of larynx, trachea and lung in 1971 to 2019

Mortality from breast cancer and prostate cancer did not decrease in 2019

The most common type of cancer causing death among women is breast cancer. In 2019, altogether 874 women died from breast cancer, which was 20 women more than in the year before. Breast cancer mortality was 31 deaths per 100,000 women. The average age of women who died of breast cancer was 73 years. Nearly every fourth deceased was aged under 65. In the past ten years the number of women who died of breast cancer has remained almost unchanged but breast cancer mortality relative to the number and age structure of women has decreased by seven per cent over ten years (Figure 5).

After lung cancer, prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer resulting in death among men. In 2019, altogether 922 men died of prostate cancer, that is, slightly more 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 80. Men's age-standardised prostate cancer mortality has decreased in the 2000s by over 10 per cent in ten years. By contrast, mortality from both breast cancer and prostate cancer increased by one per cent in 2019 from the year before (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Age-standardised prostate cancer mortality for men and breast cancer mortality for women 1971 to 2019

Figure 5. Age-standardised prostate cancer mortality for men and breast cancer mortality for women 1971 to 2019

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, 2. Mortality from diseases of the circulatory system decreased further in 2019 . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 21.9.2021].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2019/ksyyt_2019_2020-12-14_kat_002_en.html