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

During 2017, most Finns died from diseases of the circulatory system. Their importance as a cause of death has decreased, however, over the past twenty years from 44 to 36 per cent. Simultaneously, men's and women's age-standardised mortality from diseases of the circulatory system has decreased by over 40 per cent. In 2017, mortality from diseases of the circulatory system relative to the number and age structure of the population decreased for both women and men compared to the previous year (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 for men and every sixth death for women. Almost 10,000 persons died of ischaemic heart disease.

Persons dying of ischaemic disease ever older

Persons dying of this disease are ever older. In 1971, nearly four out of ten persons that died of ischaemic heart disease were of working-age, while in 2017 fewer than 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 2017 were 79 and 88 years.

Figure 3 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 at 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 2017, ischaemic heart disease mortality decreased further for both men and women.

Figure 3. Age-standardised mortality from ischaemic heart disease in 1971 to 2017

Figure 3. Age-standardised mortality from ischaemic heart disease in 1971 to 2017

Difference between genders in lung cancer mortality has decreased in 10 years

Of the main cause of death categories, second most Finns died of neoplasms. In 2017, they caused nearly one in four deaths. Persons who died of neoplasms were on average almost 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 ten per cent for men and less for women, that is, by four per cent (Appendix figure 2). In 2017, neoplasm mortality decreased further for both men and women compared to the previous year. The most common type of cancer resulting in death was lung cancer and prostate cancer for men and breast cancer and lung cancer for women.

In 2017, 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 men’s lung cancer mortality has decreased while it has grown among women. Over the past ten years, women’s age-standardised lung cancer mortality has grown by 15 per cent while men’s has decreased by more than 20 per cent. In 2017, age-standardised lung cancer mortality decreased for both men and women compared to the year before (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Age-standardised mortality from carcinoma of larynx, trachea and lung in 1971 to 2017

Figure 4. Age-standardised mortality from carcinoma of larynx, trachea and lung in 1971 to 2017

The most common type of cancer causing death among women is breast cancer. In 2017, more than 900 women died from breast cancer, which was around 30 more than in the year before. Breast cancer mortality was 33 deaths per 100,000 women. The average age of women that died of breast cancer was 72 and almost one-third were aged under 65. In 2017, the number of women that died of breast cancer was slightly higher than ten years ago but age-standardised breast cancer mortality relative to the number and age structure of the population has decreased by seven per cent in ten years (Figure 5).

After lung cancer, prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer resulting in death among men. In 2017, around 900 men died of prostate cancer, that is, as many as women of breast cancer. Men’s non-age-standardised 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 81. Men's age-standardised prostate cancer mortality has decreased clearly in the 2000s.

Figure 5. Age-standardised prostate cancer mortality for men and breast cancer mortality for women 1971 to 2017

Figure 5. Age-standardised prostate cancer mortality for men and breast cancer mortality for women 1971 to 2017

Source: Causes of death, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Airi Pajunen 029 551 3605, Jari Hellanto 029 551 3291, Kati Taskinen 029 551 3648, kuolemansyyt@stat.fi

Director in charge: Jari Tarkoma


Updated 17.12.2018

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Causes of death [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-5078. 2017, 2. Ischaemic heart disease still the cause of one in five deaths for men . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 21.10.2019].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2017/ksyyt_2017_2018-12-17_kat_002_en.html