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Leading Causes of Death in England and Wales, 2009

Released: 20 October 2011 Download PDF

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Chart 1. Total number of deaths and leading causes of death: by sex and age group, 2009

England and Wales

Total number of deaths and leading causes of death, 2009
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Around half a million people, representing less than one per cent of the total population, died in England and Wales in 2009.1,2,3 The vast majority of deaths occurred at older ages, with almost eight out of ten men and nearly nine out of ten women dying at age 65 or above.

Approximately 500, or one in every 1,000 deaths, occurred in children between the ages of one and four years. In this age group the leading cause of death, accounting for around one in six male deaths, and one in seven female deaths, was due to congenital anomalies; conditions present from birth. 

External causes of death such as land transport accidents and suicide4 were the leading causes of death between the ages of five and 34 years. There were more than twice as many deaths among young males than young females, demonstrating the susceptibility of young males to death by external causes.

From the age of 35 onwards, the leading causes of death for men and women are dominated by chronic diseases and conditions, some of which may be linked to lifestyle.  

Coronary heart disease, breast cancer and lung cancer were among the leading causes of death for men and women between the ages of 35 and 79 years. Over a third of all male deaths and a quarter of all female deaths occurred between the ages of 65 and 79 years.

For those aged 80 years and above coronary heart disease and stroke were the leading causes of death for both men and women. For men, influenza and pneumonia appear amongst the top three leading causes of death; these illnesses also appeared as a leading cause of death for males in the youngest age-group, one to four years. For women, dementia was prominent among the leading causes of death in this oldest age group and it is notable that the total number of deaths for women aged 80 years and above exceeded the combined total of all deaths amongst females at younger ages.

Source: Office for National Statistics

Background notes

  1. Causes of death were defined using the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10), according to the groups defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

  2. Figures include deaths of non-residents.

  3. Figures are for deaths registered in 2009.

  4. Suicide was defined using the ICD-10 codes X60-X84 for ages 10 to 14 years, and codes X60-X84 and Y10-Y34 for age 15 and above. In England and Wales, verdicts of suicide cannot be returned for children under the age of 10 years.

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