2. Ischaemic heart disease still the cause of one in five deaths

Of the main cause of death categories, most Finns died of diseases of the circulatory system in 2015. The group’s importance as a cause of death has decreased, however, over the past twenty years from 44 to 37 per cent. Simultaneously, men's and women's age-standardised mortality from diseases of the circulatory system has declined by over 40 per cent (Appendix figure 1).

Among diseases of the circulatory system, ischaemic heart disease is still one of the most common causes of death for Finns, even though mortality from ischaemic heart disease has decreased clearly in Finland. Ischaemic heart disease still caused every fifth death and over 10,000 persons died of it in 2015.

Persons dying of ischaemic disease are older than before

Persons dying of this disease are older than before. In 1971, nearly four out of ten persons that died of ischaemic heart disease were of working-age, while in 2015 only one in ten was of working-age. The median average age for those dying of ischaemic heart disease in 1971 was 65 years for men and 73 years for women, while the corresponding figures in 2015 were 79 and 87 years.

Figure 2 shows age-standardised ischaemic heart disease mortality. In age standardisation, the effect of the age structure of the population and its changes are eliminated. Then it is seen in which level mortality from ischaemic heart disease would be if the age structure of the population remained unchanged during the whole reference period. The new standard population of Eurostat is used as the standard population in age-standardisation. When the ageing of the population is eliminated from the figures by age standardisation, it can be seen that ischaemic heart disease mortality has fallen evenly over the last 40 years. In 2015, ischaemic heart disease mortality decreased further for both men and women.

Figure 2. Age-standardised mortality from ischaemic heart disease in 1971 to 2015

Figure 2. Age-standardised mortality from ischaemic heart disease in 1971 to 2015

Women's lung cancer mortality has grown by one-fifth in ten years

Of the main cause of death categories, second most Finns died of neoplasms. In 2015, they caused nearly one in four deaths. Persons who died of neoplasms are on average 10 years younger than those who died of diseases of the circulatory system. Over the past ten years, age-standardised neoplasm mortality has decreased by around ten per cent for men and slightly less for women, that is, six per cent (Appendix figure 2). In 2015, neoplasm mortality increased slightly for both men and women from the year before. The most common type of cancer resulting in death was still lung cancer for men and breast cancer for women.

In 2015, a total of 1,500 men and 800 women died from carcinoma of the larynx, carcinoma of the tracheitis and lung cancer. The difference between men and women in lung cancer mortality has narrowed since the 1980s as lung cancer mortality among men has decreased and simultaneously it has grown slowly among women. Over the past ten years, women’s lung cancer mortality has grown by more than 20 per cent. In 2015, men’s lung cancer mortality, however, increased slightly and women's decreased from the year before (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Age-standardised mortality from carcinoma of larynx, trachea and lung in 1971 to 2015

Figure 3. Age-standardised mortality from carcinoma of larynx, trachea and lung in 1971 to 2015

The most common type of cancer causing death among women is breast cancer. In 2015 the number of deaths from breast cancer was 816, that is, 29 deaths per 100,000 women. The average age of persons that died of breast cancer was 72 and only one in ten of the persons that died were aged under 55. Nearly as many working-age women died of breast cancer (237 women) as died of alcohol-related causes (246 women). The number of deaths from breast cancer was nearly the same in 2015 as ten years earlier but age-standardised breast cancer mortality has decreased by 16 per cent (Figure 4).

After lung cancer, prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer resulting in death among men. In 2015, altogether 898 men died from prostate cancer, which was slightly more than women dying from breast cancer. Men’s prostate cancer mortality is almost on level with women's breast cancer mortality, that is, 33 deaths per 100,000 men.

Above all, prostate cancer is a common cause of death for aged men: more than nine out of ten of the deceased were over 65 and the average age of the deceased was 80. Men's age-standardised prostate cancer mortality has decreased clearly in the 2000s.

Figure 4. Age-standardised prostate cancer mortality for men and breast cancer mortality for women 1971 to 2015

Figure 4. Age-standardised prostate cancer mortality for men and breast cancer mortality for women 1971 to 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, 2. Ischaemic heart disease still the cause of one in five deaths . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 21.10.2019].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2015/ksyyt_2015_2016-12-30_kat_002_en.html