Health Fact Sheets
The 10 leading causes of death, 2013

Release date: March 9, 2017

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The number of deaths is used as the ranking criteria for leading causes of death. Ranking causes of death is an informative way to present mortality statistics, supplementing other measures of mortality such as death rates and life tables. The methodology used to select the leading causes of death was developed by the National Center for Health Statistics of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Heron).

Statistics shown in this fact sheet come from the Canadian Vital Statistics Death Database. These data are collected from all provincial and territorial vital statistics registries and contain demographic and medical (cause of death) information on all deaths occurring in Canada.

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Proportion of deaths for the 10 leading causes of death is declining

The relative burden of the 10 leading causes of death has been declining since 2000, while the proportion of deaths attributable to all other causes has increased. In 2013, the 10 leading causes of death were responsible for 188,804 deaths, representing 75% of all deaths in Canada, compared to 80% in 2000 (Table 1).

The ranking of the 10 leading causes of death was fairly consistent from 2000 to 2013, with the exception of 2010 and 2012, where accidents (unintentional injuries) moved into fourth position, ahead of chronic lower respiratory disease, and 2013, where influenza and pneumonia moved into seventh position, ahead of Alzheimer’s disease.

Table 1
Ranking, number and percentage of death for the 10 leading causes of death, Canada, 2000, 2012 and 2013
Table summary
This table displays the results of Ranking. The information is grouped by Cause of death (appearing as row headers), 2013, 2012 and 2000, calculated using rank, number and % units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Cause of death 2013 2012 2000
rank number % rank number % rank number %
All causes of death Note ...: not applicable 252,338 100.0 Note ...: not applicable 246,596 100.0 Note ...: not applicable 218,062 100.0
Total, 10 leading causes of death Note ...: not applicable 188,804 74.8 Note ...: not applicable 184,869 75.0 Note ...: not applicable 175,149 80.3
Malignant neoplasms (cancer) 1 75,112 29.8 1 74,361 30.2 1 62,672 28.7
Diseases of heart (heart disease) 2 49,891 19.8 2 48,681 19.7 2 55,070 25.3
Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) 3 13,400 5.3 3 13,174 5.3 3 15,576 7.1
Chronic lower respiratory diseases 4 11,976 4.7 5 11,130 4.5 4 9,813 4.5
Accidents (unintentional injuries) 5 11,452 4.5 4 11,290 4.6 5 8,589 3.9
Diabetes mellitus (diabetes) 6 7,045 2.8 6 6,993 2.8 6 6,714 3.1
Influenza and pneumonia 7 6,551 2.6 8 5,694 2.3 8 4,966 2.3
Alzheimer's disease 8 6,345 2.5 7 6,293 2.6 7 5,007 2.3
Intentional self-harm (suicide) 9 4,054 1.6 9 3,926 1.6 9 3,606 1.7
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis (kidney disease) 10 2,978 1.2 10 3,327 1.3 10 3,136 1.4
All other causes Note ...: not applicable 63,534 25.2 Note ...: not applicable 61,727 25.0 Note ...: not applicable 42,913 19.7

Cancer, the leading cause of death, accounted for 75,112 deaths in 2013 or 30% of all deaths, a proportion that has remained almost unchanged since 2000 (29%). The second leading cause of death was heart disease, accounting for 20% of all deaths, followed in third rank by stroke (cerebrovascular diseases) with 5%.

Three out of ten leading causes had the same ranking for men and women

In 2013, males and females shared eight of the 10 leading causes of death. However, only three leading causes of death had the same ranking: cancer (first), heart disease (second) and chronic lower respiratory diseases (fourth).

Table 2
Ranking and number of deaths for the 10 leading causes of death by sex, Canada, 2013
Table summary
This table displays the results of Ranking and number of deaths for the 10 leading causes of death by sex. The information is grouped by Cause of death (appearing as row headers), Males, Females and Male-Female ratio, calculated using rank, number and percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Cause of death Males Females Male-Female ratioTable 2 Note 1
rank number percent rank number percent
All causes of death Note ...: not applicable 126,973 100.0 Note ...: not applicable 125,365 100.0 101
Malignant neoplasms (cancer) 1 39,384 31.0 1 35,728 28.5 110
Diseases of heart (heart disease) 2 26,454 20.8 2 23,437 18.7 113
Accidents (unintentional injuries) 3 6,570 5.2 5 4,882 3.9 135
Chronic lower respiratory diseases 4 6,030 4.7 4 5,946 4.7 101
Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) 5 5,543 4.4 3 7,857 6.3 71
Diabetes mellitus (diabetes) 6 3,786 3.0 8 3,259 2.6 116
Intentional self-harm (suicide) 7 3,041 2.4 11 1,013 0.8 300
Influenza and pneumonia 8 2,992 2.4 7 3,559 2.8 84
Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 9 1,956 1.5 12 1,005 0.8 195
Alzheimer's disease 10 1,954 1.5 6 4,391 3.5 45
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis 11 1,439 1.1 9 1,539 1.2 94
Sepsis 13 1,070 0.8 10 1,219 1.0 88
All other causes Note ...: not applicable 26,754 21.1 Note ...: not applicable 31,530 25.2 85

The third leading cause of death for males was accidents (unintentional injuries); this cause ranked fifth for females. In 2000, accidents ranked fifth for males and seventh for females.

Suicide was the seventh leading cause of death for males in 2013, the same rank compared to 2000. For females, suicide ranked 11th in 2013 but ranked 10th in 2000. In Table 2, the sex ratio (number of male deaths per 100 female deaths) in 2013 shows that suicide is three times higher for males than for females. This is confirmed by a study of suicide rates in Canada (Navaneelan).

Alzheimer’s disease ranked sixth for females and tenth for males. The sex ratio shows that in 2013, more than twice as many females as males died from this cause of death. In 2000, Alzheimer’s disease ranked fifth for females and 10th for males.

Although stroke has ranked third for females since 2000, for males it went from third in 2000 to fifth in 2013.

For females, diabetes was in eighth place in 2013, down from sixth place in 2000. Sepsis ranked 10th among females in 2013, and 15th in 2000.

Age differences

Chart 1 clearly shows that there were differences between age groups in the leading cause of death in 2013. In the 1-to-24 age group, more than half of the deaths were attributable to external causes of death such as accidents (unintentional injuries), with 36%, and suicide, with 18%. Deaths from cancer ranked third, with 11%, followed by homicide, with 4%.

In the group aged 25 to 44, the leading cause of death was accidents (unintentional injuries), with 23%, followed by cancer, with 20%, and suicide, with 17%. In this age group, heart disease ranked fourth.

In the 45-to-64 age group, 43% of the deaths were attributable to cancer, and 16% to heart disease.

In the 65-and-over age group, where the number of deaths was most numerous, deaths due to chronic conditions were among the top five leading causes of death. Cancer and heart disease accounted for nearly one-half of the deaths in this age group, followed by stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases, at 6% and 5% respectively, and Alzheimer’s disease, at 3%.

This is an amalgamated chart composed of four pie charts,  with one pie chart for each age group.

Description for Chart 1

This is an amalgamated chart composed of four pie charts, with one pie chart for each age group.

The upper-left pie chart includes a header stating that the total number of deaths for the age group 1 to 24 years is 2,622 in Canada in 2013. The chart has the following 6 sections:
Accidents 36%
Suicide 18%
Cancer 11%
Homicide 4%
Congenital malformations 4%
All other causes of death 27%

The upper-right pie chart includes a header stating that the total number of deaths for the age group 25 to 44 years is 7,409 in Canada in 2013. The chart has the following 6 sections:
Accidents 23%
Cancer 20%
Suicide 17%
Heart disease 9%
Homicide 3%
All other causes of death 28%

The bottom-left pie chart includes a header stating that the total number of deaths for the age group 45 to 64 years is 40,996 in Canada in 2013. The chart has the following 6 sections:
Cancer 43 %
Heart disease 16%
Accidents 6%
Suicide 4%
Liver disease 4%
All other causes of death 27%

The bottom-right pie chart includes a header stating that the total number of deaths for the age group 65 years and over is 199,427 in Canada in 2013. The chart has the following 6 sections:
Cancer 28%
Heart disease 21%
Stroke 6%
Chronic lower respiratory diseases 5%
Accidents 3%
All other causes of death 37%

Source: Vital Statistics: Death Database, CANSIM Table 102–0561.

Reference

Heron, M. 2007. "Deaths: Leading causes for 2004." National Vital Statistics Reports. 56 (5).

Navaneelan, Tanya. 2012. “Suicide rates: An overview.” Health at a Glance. Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 82-624-X.

Data

Additional data on leading causes of death are available from CANSIM tables 102–0561, 102-0562, 102-0563 and 102-0564.

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