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Life Insurance

Shark Attacks, Plane Crashes or Strokes: What do Australians Rank as their most likely cause of Death?

06 Mar 2020

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Shark Attacks, Plane Crashes or Strokes: What do Australians Rank as their most likely cause of Death?

Media Release: Friday, 06 March 2020

The latest findings from NobleOak’s annual Life Insurance industry survey, conducted by independent research firm PureProfile, shows that Australians rate cancer as the number one illness most likely to happen to someone like them, closely followed by a heart attack, then car accident and a stroke.

According to the survey, of over 1,000 Australians, cancer is a primary concern for 30-34-year-old females, whilst males from 55-60 believe a heart attack has the highest likelihood of happening to someone like them.

Despite often grabbing the headlines, Australian’s least expect that they would fall victim to shark attacks, lightning strikes, terrorist attacks and plane crashes.

Amongst those incidents rated most highly, the likelihood of being impacted by Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or Dementia rose this year to be the 6th most expected cause of death, moving above Angioplasty (surgical repair or unblocking of a blood vessel).

Rank the following in order or likelihood to happen to someone like you in the future (1 most likely, 11 least likely)

Commenting on the findings, NobleOak CEO Anthony R Brown said:

The key finding in this year’s survey is the increasing awareness in society around dementia related illnesses.

“Interestingly the mortality rate in Australia for illnesses like cancer and heart attack have been on a steady decline for years, but worryingly dementia related illnesses have been steadily climbing and are now actually the second most likely cause of death in Australia and projected to become the number one cause of mortality so there’s clearly still a gap in the public’s expectation for these diseases versus reality.”

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistic released in September 2019 shows Ischaemic heart disease decreased from 91.4 deaths per 100,000 in 2009, to 54.6 in 2018. This was largest rate decrease within the top 5 leading causes.

However, dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, increased from 32.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 2009 to 41.2 in 2018.

The decrease in cardiovascular disease mortality and increases in Dementia mortality constitute the largest changes in leading causes of death in Australia.

Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease replaced Cerebrovascular diseases as the second leading cause in 2013 and on current trend will become the leading cause of death in coming years.

Leading causes of death, standardised death rates, 2009-2018

Mr Brown added:

The key difference we noticed in our survey between peoples’ perception of what they are most likely to die from compared to the actual likelihood is the rise of dementia related illnesses. While people ranked dementia 6th in likelihood, statistics shows it to likely become the leading cause of deaths in Australia in the future.

Sadly, the years of potential life lost, which weights the age at death to gain an estimate of how many years a person would have lived had they not died prematurely, shows suicide accounted for the highest number of years of potential life lost, despite being the 14th leading cause overall. The median age at death is 44.4 years, which is considerably lower than any of the other top 20 leading causes.

Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) for leading causes, 2018

“The conflict we see in our survey is that despite the awareness of the risk and potential impact of diseases like cancer, and increasingly dementia, life insurance take-up is still low across Australia with less than half (47%) of those we surveyed having Life Insurance. This is in contrast to counties like Hong Kong and Switzerland that top the globe for the highest percentage take up of life insurance.”

The full 2020 report is available at https://www.nobleoak.com.au/tools-guides/whitepapers/

Cause of death, Australia 2018 data was reported by the ABS in September 2019. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/0/47E19CA15036B04BCA2577570014668B?

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