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1. Causes of death in 2020

During 2020, around 55,500 persons with a municipality of residence in Finland died. This is around 1,500 more persons than in the year before. Based on death certificates, more than 170 of them died abroad, the rest in Finland. Excluded from the statistics are persons residing temporarily in Finland, of whom around 100 persons died in Finland.

In 2020, two out of three deceased had turned 75 and more than one third had turned 85. Around 450 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 84 for women and 75 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 rate relative to the size of the population and age structure remained almost unchanged from the year before for both men and women. Men’s and women's age-standardised total mortality rate has decreased relatively evenly since the 1970s and no change took place in 2020 (Figure 1). In addition to the population, the age-standardised mortality rate takes into account the changes in the population's age structure. Age standardisation is needed to illustrate those changes in causes of death that are not due to the ageing of the age structure.

Figure 1. Age-standardised mortality in 1971 to 2020

Figure 1. Age-standardised mortality in 1971 to 2020

Diseases of the circulatory system and neoplasms caused most deaths

Because of 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 2020, thirty-three 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 nearly every sixth death. The commonest cancers causing death were lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.

Over 10,000 persons died from dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, which represents 19 per cent of all deaths. The number of deaths caused by dementia has grown rapidly in the past few decades partly due to the ageing of the population. More than one in four deaths among women and one in eight 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).

Table 1. Causes of death 2020

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females Age-standardised mortality rate Age-standandardised mortality rate
Number Number Number % % % Change
2019–2020, %
Change
2010–2020, %
Deaths total 55 498 27 971 27 527 100 100 100 +0,3 -13,7
Diseases of the circulatory system 18 496 9 541 8 955 33 34 33 -1,4 -30,6
Neoplasms 13 411 7 154 6 257 24 26 23 -1,1 -8,0
Dementia, Alzheimer's disease 10 673 3 495 7 178 19 12 26 +1,7 +28,7
Accidents (excl. alcohol-related diseases) 2 213 1 457 756 4 5 3 -2,8 -23,5
Disease of the respiratory system 1 749 1 130 619 3 4 2 -14,0 -32,0
Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 1716 1318 398 3 5 1 +0,3 -16,6
Suicides 717 529 188 1 2 1 -4,4 -27,0
COVID-19 558 282 276 1 1 1 - -
Other causes of death 5 965 3 065 2 900 11 11 11 - -

More working-age people died than in the previous year

During 2020, around 7,600 persons of working-age (15 to 64 years) died, which is 200 more than in the year before. The share of working-age people in all deaths was 14 per cent, for men 19 per cent and for women nine per cent.

In 2020, mortality among working-age people increased by close on four per cent. Despite the growth, the age-standardised mortality of working-age people has diminished in ten years by over 20 per cent. Men's mortality has diminished slightly more than women's, which has narrowed the difference in mortality between genders. However, the mortality of working-age men is still more than double that of women and the share of men among deaths of working-age people was more than two thirds.

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 43 per cent of women who died in working age died from neoplasms, but only 24 per cent of men. Diseases of the circulatory system and neoplasms caused nearly as large a share of deaths among working-age men. The share of diseases of the circulatory system in causes of death was 15 per cent for women and 25 per cent for men in 2020.

The most common cancer resulting in death among working-age women was breast cancer, which caused the death of over 200 women in 2020 (Appendix table 1c). Correspondingly, for working-age men, the most common cancer resulting in death was lung cancer (Appendix table 1b).

In 2020, over 1,000 working-age persons died from alcohol-related causes. The number was slightly higher than in the previous year. Mortality from alcohol for working-age men and women has declined clearly from the record level of 2007, when there were 1,800 deaths. Three and a half 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 2020

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Age-standardised mortality rate Age-standandardised mortality rate
Number Number Number % Change
2019–2020, %
Change
2010–2020, %
Deaths total 7 604 5 253 2 351 100 +3,8 -22,4
Neoplasms 2 246 1 241 1 005 30 +2,1 -19,6
Diseases of the circulatory system 1 646 1 299 347 22 +3,1 -28,4
Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 1 063 829 234 14 +7,4 -25,4
Accidents 700 559 141 9 +0,5 -31,9
Suicides 560 403 157 7 -1,8 -26,5
COVID-19 42 37 5 1 - -
Other causes of death 1 347 855 462 18 - -

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 2020 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 2020

Figure 2. Proportions of causes of death by age groups in 2020

Most persons aged over 75 died from diseases of the circulatory system, which caused 37 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 close on 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 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 clearly in recent years. In 2020, dementia (incl. Alzheimer’s disease) was clearly a more common cause of death for elderly people than neoplasms. During 2020, 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 2020, 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, 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 according to preliminary data for 2019.

The share of deaths from Covid-19 virus infection among those aged 75 or over was slightly over one per cent. The share of accidental deaths among aged people was three per cent, that is, over 1,100 persons.

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 2020

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females
Number Number Number % % %
Deaths total 37 178 16 005 21 173 100 100 100
Diseases of the circulatory system 13 819 6 081 7 738 37 38 37
Dementia, Alzheimer's disease 10 144 3 235 6 909 27 20 33
Neoplasms 7 001 3 555 3 446 19 22 16
Disease of the respiratory system 1 112 704 408 3 4 2
Diseases of the digestive system (excl. alcohol-related diseases) 859 313 546 2 2 3
COVID-19 452 199 253 1 1 1
Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 143 104 39 0 1 0
Accidents (excl.alcohol-related diseases) 1 121 611 510 3 4 2
Suicides 69 55 14 0 0 0
Other causes of death 2 458 1 148 1 310 7 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 10.12.2021

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Causes of death [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-5078. 2020, 1. Causes of death in 2020 . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 19.8.2022].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2020/ksyyt_2020_2021-12-10_kat_001_en.html