Major causes of death

Causes of death have been ranked in two different ways in this chart book: first by age-standardised mortality rates (Table 20) and then by years of life lost (YLL) (Table 21).

  Males Females
Table 20: Major causes of death, ranked by age-standardised mortality rates, by gender, Māori and non-Māori, 2010–12 [1]
Māori Ischaemic heart disease Lung cancer
Lung cancer Ischaemic heart disease
Suicide Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Diabetes Cerebrovascular disease (stroke)
Motor vehicle accidents Diabetes
Non-Māori Ischaemic heart disease Ischaemic heart disease
Suicide Breast cancer
Lung cancer Cerebrovascular disease (stroke)
Cerebrovascular disease (stroke) Lung cancer
Motor vehicle accidents Colorectal cancer

Table 20 shows that ischaemic heart disease was the leading cause of death for Māori males and both non-Māori males and females, and the second leading cause of death for Māori females.

Lung cancer was the leading cause of death for Māori females and the second leading cause of death for Māori males. It was also in the top 5 causes of death for non-Māori.

Suicide was the third leading cause of death for Māori males and the second leading cause of death for non-Māori males.

Diabetes featured in the top 5 causes of death for Māori but did not feature in the top 5 for non-Māori.

Motor vehicle accidents were the fifth leading cause of death for both Māori and non-Māori males, but not for either Māori or non-Māori females.

Apart from suicide and motor vehicle accidents for males, the major causes of death were all chronic diseases, regardless of gender or ethnicity.

Growing old is a natural biological process, and death, being inevitable, reflects population health status only to a limited extent. Therefore, YLL is used in this chart book to provide a measure of the social burden of premature mortality across the life span, including deaths in old age. See Years of life lost for further information about YLL.

  Males Females
Table 21: Major causes of death, ranked by YLL, by gender, Māori and non-Māori, 2010–12 [2]
Māori Ischaemic heart disease Lung cancer
Suicide Ischaemic heart disease
Lung cancer Breast cancer
Motor vehicle accidents Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Diabetes Cerebrovascular disease (stroke)
Non-Māori Ischaemic heart disease Ischaemic heart disease
Lung cancer Cerebrovascular disease (stroke)
Cerebrovascular disease (stroke) Breast cancer
Suicide Lung cancer
Colorectal cancer Colorectal cancer

When considering cause of death by YLL, Table 21 shows that the major causes of premature death were still dominated by chronic diseases.

Ischaemic heart disease was the leading cause of premature death for Māori males and both non-Māori males and females, and it was the second leading cause of premature death for Māori females.

Lung cancer was the leading cause of premature death for Māori females and it was in the top 5 leading causes of premature death for Māori male and non-Māori.

Suicide was the second leading cause of premature death for Māori male and it was the fourth leading cause of premature death for non-Māori males.

Motor vehicle accidents were the fourth leading cause of premature death for Māori males, but were not in the top 5 for Māori females, or for non-Māori of either gender.

Diabetes was the fifth leading cause of premature death for Māori males but not for non-Māori males, neither for Māori or non-Māori females.

Breast cancer was the third leading cause of premature death for both Māori and non-Māori females.


1. Notes:

Source: Mortality Collection Data Set (MORT), Ministry of Health


2. Note: Prioritised ethnicity has been used – see Ngā tapuae me ngā raraunga: Methods and data sources for further information.

Source: Mortality Collection Data Set (MORT), Ministry of Health

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