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1. Causes of death in 2012

In 1992, the average life expectancy at birth for boys was 71.7 years and for girls, 79.4 years. Twenty years later, life expectancy has lengthened considerably: the life expectancy for a boy born in 2012 is 77.5 years and 83.4 years for a girl.

The number of deaths in 2012 was 51,710, of whom 25,646 were men and 26,091 women. If the war years are not taken into consideration, the number of deaths was last higher than this in the 1920s. The number of deaths was over 1,000 higher in 2012 than in 2011. In 2012, nearly two out of three of the deceased were over 75 and every third person was over 85.

Of the deceased, 39 per cent died from diseases of the circulatory system. The second highest number of deaths, 23 per cent, were caused by neoplasms. The most common disease of the circulatory system, ischaemic heart disease, was the cause of only about one fifth of all deaths in 2012. The commonest types of cancer leading to death for men were still lung cancer and prostate cancer, and correspondingly for women breast cancer and lung cancer.

Dementia and Alzheimer's caused around 14 per cent of deaths, 19 per cent of women's deaths and eight per cent of men's. The number of deaths caused by dementia has grown rapidly in the past decade partly due to the ageing of the population. Dementia mortality is clearly higher among women than among men, which may mainly be due to the fact that women live longer than men (Figure 4).

The share of working-age people (aged 15 to 64) among the deceased has decreased. Of the deceased in 2012, 18 per cent were working-age people (9,554 persons), while twenty years ago the proportion was 23 per cent.

Biggest cause of death category for persons of working age was neoplasms

In 2012, every fourth man that died was of working age and every tenth woman. The main cause of death for working-age people was neoplasms and the second largest cause was diseases of the circulatory system. More than half of working-age people that died during the year died of these two causes. One in ten died in accidents. There were slightly more deaths caused by alcohol-related reasons or accidental poisoning by alcohol, 16 per cent.

Table 1. Main causes of death among working-age population (aged 15 to 64) in 2012

54–group time series classification Total Males Females Total Males Females
Number Number Number % % %
Neoplasms 2 748 1 471 1 277 29 23 42
- Neoplasms 536 361 175 6 6 6
- Neoplasms 325 0 325 3 0 11
- Neoplasms 219 131 88 2 2 3
Diseases of the circulatory system 2 172 1 691 481 23 26 16
- Diseases of the circulatory 1 131 964 167 12 15 6
Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 1 484 1 155 329 16 18 11
Accidents 884 708 176 9 11 6
Suicides 711 523 188 7 8 6
Disease of the respiratory system 219 154 65 2 2 2
Other causes of death 1 336 823 513 14 13 17
Deaths total 9 554 6 525 3 029 100 100 100

Working-age men were killed by diseases of the circulatory system (26%), neoplasms (23%) and alcohol (18%). The most common diseases of the circulatory system for working-age men was ischaemic heart disease. The number of deaths from ischaemic heart disease have halved over the past two decades. The number of accidents among working-age men has also contracted by one-third compared to 1992. Over the same time period, alcohol-related diseases and alcohol poisonings have grown1.5-fold. In 2012, the number of suicides among working-age men was 523, which is almost one-half less than twenty years earlier.

The main cause of death for working-age women was neoplasms. As many as 42 per cent of women dying at working age died from neoplasms and in particular from breast cancer, 11 per cent. The other main causes were diseases of the circulatory system and alcohol-related causes. Women’s deaths from alcohol-related causes has doubled over the past 20 years, and their number was the same as women’s deaths from breast cancer in 2012. The number of suicides among working-age women has slowly decreased over the past few decades. In 2012, the number of suicides among working-age women was 188, which is good 60 fewer than twenty years ago.

Main cause of death category for aged people was diseases of the circulatory system

Of all deaths among persons aged 65 or over, most were caused by diseases of the circulatory system (43%). The biggest disease group in diseases of the circulatory system was ischaemic heart disease of which nearly one in four aged people died. For aged men, the second most common cause of death was neoplasms and the third was dementia. The most common type of neoplasms for men was lung cancer and prostate cancer. For aged women dementia was the second most common cause of death, killing every fifth aged woman. The third commonest reason was neoplasms. For women the commonest types of cancer were lung cancer and breast cancer.

Over the past twenty years, the ischaemic heart disease mortality of women and men aged 65 or over has decreased and dementia mortality has increased as life expectancy has grown. Dementia mortality has developed over the past twenty years in a similar fashion for both men and women (Figure 4). Additional information on the causes of death of persons aged 65 or over can be found in Appendix tables 1a-c.

Source: Causes of death, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Airi Pajunen 09 1734 3605, Kati Taskinen 09 1734 3297,

Director in charge: Riitta Harala

Updated 30.12.2013

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Causes of death [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-5078. 2012, 1. Causes of death in 2012 . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 20.4.2024].
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