1. Causes of death in 2015

In 2015, in all 52,300 persons died, of which 25,900 were men and 26,400 women. The longer life expectancy is visible in the age distribution of deaths. People are dying at an ever older age: two in three were aged over 75 and more than one in three were over 85. Four hundred of dead persons were aged 100 or over. The average age at death (median) was 85 years for women and 76 years for men while ten years ago the average ages were 82 and 73 years.

Due to the age structure of persons who died, the typical causes of death of older age groups dominate the causes of death distribution of the entire population. In 2015, thirty-seven 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 around one-fifth of all deaths. The most common types of cancer leading to death for men were lung cancer and prostate cancer, and correspondingly for women breast cancer and lung cancer.

Altogether 8,600 persons died from dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, which represented 16 per cent of all deaths. The number of deaths caused by dementia has grown rapidly in the past decade partly due to the ageing of the population. One in five deaths among women and one in ten deaths among men were caused by dementia. More than double the amount of women die of dementia than the amount of men, which is mainly because women live longer than men. There are no clear differences in age-standardised dementia mortality among genders (Figure 5).

Fewer deaths of alcohol-related causes and suicides than in the year before

Close on 1,700 persons died of alcohol-related diseases and alcohol poisonings in 2015, which is nearly 200 lower than in the previous year. The share of alcohol-related causes in all deaths was three per cent. The majority (three out of four) of those dying of alcohol were men. During the past ten years, mortality from alcohol among both men and women aged 65 or over has grown while, correspondingly, in younger age groups mortality from alcohol has decreased. Persons who die from alcohol-related reasons are getting older: the median average age at death was 61 years for both men and women.

In 2015, suicides were committed by 731 persons, which is around 60 fewer than in the year before. The number of suicides was at its highest in 1990, when there were over 1,500 suicides in Finland. Since then, suicide mortality has decreased almost continuously (Figure 10). In 2015, suicide mortality was nearly 30 per cent lower than ten years ago. The median average age of men who committed suicide was 48 years and of women 51 years. One in ten of all those having committed a suicide was aged under 25 and one in five was aged over 65.

In 2015, nearly 2,200 persons died of accidents, being four per cent of deaths, when alcohol poisonings are included in alcohol-related deaths in the time series classification. The number of fatalities from accidents was 65 fewer than in the year before. The number of deaths from accidents has slowly and almost continuously fallen since 2004, when 2,600 persons died from accidents.

Nearly one-half of working-age women died of neoplasms

In Finland, ever fewer working-age persons are dying annually (aged 15 to 64). In 2015, altogether 8,200 of them died, which was 16 per cent of all deaths. The number of deaths among working-age persons declined by nearly 500 persons. The age-standardised mortality of working-age people has diminished in ten years by around one-quarter.

One in five of the men that died in 2015 were of working-age and one in ten of women. The mortality of working-age men is still more than double compared to women, even though the mortality of men has diminished slightly faster than that of women, which has decreased the difference in mortality between genders.

Working-age people died most from neoplasms and from diseases of the circulatory system. More than one-half of deceased working-age people died of these two causes. As many as 45 per cent of working age women died from neoplasms. Diseases of the circulatory system have decreased in relative terms for women: their share of deaths was only 15 per cent in 2015, while twenty years ago the share was nearly one-quarter. For working-age men the importance of diseases of the circulatory system in causes of death is still higher than that of neoplasms. The most common type of cancer resulting in death among women was breast cancer, which caused the death of nearly every tenth working-age woman. For working-age men, the most common cancer resulting in death was lung cancer.

More than 1,100 persons of working age, or 14 per cent, died of alcohol-related causes 3.5 times more working-age men died of alcohol-related causes than working-age women. One in seven of working age men and one in ten of working age women died from alcohol-related causes. Alcohol mortality among working-age men and women has decreased clearly from the peak level of 2007 and was in 2015 at the same level as in the 1990s.

Table 1. Main causes of death among working-age population (aged 15 to 64) in 2015

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females
Number Number Number % % %
04–22 Neoplasms 2 513 1 360  1 153  31 24 45
27–30 Diseases of the circulatory system 1 856 1 474 382 23 26 15
31–35 Disease of the respiratory system 190 129 61 2 2 2
41 Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 1 118 872 246 14 15 10
42–49 Accidents 750 606 144 9 11 6
50 Suicides 570 441 129 7 8 5
Other causes of death 1 192 752 440 15 13 17
01–54 Deaths total 8 189 5 634 2 555 100 100 100

Persons aged over 65 died most from diseases of the circulatory system

In 2015, ninety per cent of women who died and 78 per cent of men had turned 65. The causes of death structure for older age groups differs from that of the working-age population: the relative share of neoplasms, suicides, accidents and alcohol-related causes of death is smaller than among working-age people.

Persons aged over 65 died most from diseases of the circulatory system that caused 40 per cent of deaths. The share of diseases of the circulatory system in causes of death grows with age: For those aged 65 to 74 they killed one-third and for those aged over 95 as many as one-half (Figure 1). Correspondingly, the share of neoplasms in causes of death diminishes after the age of 70. When the share of neoplasms among deaths of persons aged 65 to 69 was 40 per cent, only six per cent of those who died at the age of over 95 died of neoplasms.

The importance of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease as a cause of death has grown strongly. In 2015, dementia was the third most common cause of death category for elderly people after diseases of the circulatory system and neoplasms. Nearly one-fifth of persons who had turned 65 and one-third of those aged over 95 died of dementia.

In 2015, one in five of the persons who committed a suicide were aged 65 or over. The share of suicides in causes of death for elderly people is, 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 in 2013. Additional information on the causes of death of persons aged 65 or over can be found in Appendix tables 1a-c and database tables.

Table 2. Main causes of death among persons aged 65 or over in 2015

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females
Number Number Number % % %
04–22 Neoplasms 9 959 5 260 4 699 23 26 20
25 Dementia, Alzheimer's disease 8 540 2 696 5 844 19 13 25
27–30 Diseases of the circulatory system 17 505 7 996 9 509 40 40 40
31–35 Disease of the respiratory system 1 749 1 028 721 4 5 3
36 Diseases of the digestive system (excl. alcohol-related diseases) 989 413 576 2 2 2
41 Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 548 416 132 1 2 1
42–49 Accidents 1 386 734 652 3 4 3
Suicides 156 112 44 0 1 0
Other causes of death 3 118 1 510 1 608 7 7 7
01–54 Deaths total 43 950 20 165 23 785 100 100 100

Figure 1. Proportions of causes of death by age groups in 2015

Figure 1. Proportions of causes of death by age groups in 2015

Source: Causes of death, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Airi Pajunen 029 551 3605, Jari Hellanto 029 551 3291, kuolemansyyt@stat.fi

Director in charge: Jari Tarkoma


Updated 30.12.2016

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Causes of death [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-5078. 2015, 1. Causes of death in 2015 . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 17.10.2019].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2015/ksyyt_2015_2016-12-30_kat_001_en.html