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Deaths and causes of death, 2012

Released: 2015-12-10

The total number of deaths reached 246,596 in 2012, representing the highest annual total since the introduction of the Vital Statistics registration system in the 1920s. The number of deaths in 2012 was also the highest ever recorded in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon.

The increase in the number of deaths can be explained by two factors. The first is population growth, as a larger population generates a higher number of deaths. The second factor is population aging, as the share of the population concentrated in older ages, when mortality is higher, is increasing.

Male and female deaths have been converging over the last three decades, though the gap between the sexes was greater in 2012 than it was in 2011. There were 124,235 male and 122,361 female deaths recorded in 2012, both up from the 122,251 male and 121,260 female deaths in 2011.

Cancer and heart disease remain the top two leading causes of death

Cancer and heart disease remained the top two leading causes of death for both men and women in 2012, a pattern observed since 2000. Together, these two causes of death were responsible for nearly half of all deaths in Canada.

While their rankings have differed somewhat since 2000, the other eight leading causes of death in 2012 remained stroke, accidents (unintentional injuries), chronic lower respiratory diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, influenza and pneumonia, suicide and kidney diseases.

Together, the 10 leading causes of death were responsible for three-quarters of all deaths in 2012. Conversely, they accounted for 80% of all deaths in 2000.

  Note to readers

Data on deaths and causes of death are collected by the Vital Statistics – Death Database, an administrative survey that collects demographic and medical (cause of death) information annually from all provincial and territorial vital statistics registries on all deaths in Canada.

The data are used to calculate basic indicators (such as counts and rates) on the deaths of residents of Canada. Information from this database is also used in the calculation of statistics, such as cause-specific death rates and life expectancy.

Data for reference year 2012 and revised data for reference year 2011 from the Vital Statistics – Death Database are now available.


The fact sheets "The 10 leading causes of death, 2012" and "Trends in mortality rates, 2000 to 2012" from the publication Health Fact Sheets (Catalogue number82-625-X), are now available from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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