Halloween, observed on October 31st in most countries, has its origins in being a day dedicated to remembering the dead. As time has gone on, many don’t focus on this traditional day of remembrance, rather viewing it as an opportunity to dress up and gather with friends.

With Halloween gaining popularity, we take a look at why this is the case as well as some of the data around deaths in Australia for this year’s ‘day of the dead’.

Halloween increasing in popularity

In 2012, Halloween was getting close to overtaking St Patrick’s Day as one of the special days in the calendar that Aussie’s connect with. Such has been the growth in engagement with Halloween over this last decade, that it is now close to overtaking Valentine’s Day as well.

The special days calendar (non-public-holiday days) is now getting more crowded with black Friday and Cyber Monday also being added in recent years. Such is the growth of Halloween driven by commercial interests, in some age groups and areas it is getting more interest and activity than Melbourne Cup Day.

“The rise in popularity of Halloween can be attributed to a few reasons. Firstly, it is commercially driven in a flat time of year. Secondly, there is less tradition associated with Halloween in Australia, and so unlike Christmas or Easter, there is nothing much sacred about Halloween. People therefore have more freedom to interpret and celebrate it in the way they want to. Thirdly, generational change is also playing a part. Today’s parents (Gen Y’s) have grown up seeing Halloween on social media and streaming services from the U.S, which is translating to more of them embracing it with their young families. These generations are also craving social connection, and families ‘trick or treating’ doesn’t just give them lollies and chocolate, it also gives them an opportunity to engage and connect with their neighbours and local community.” – Ashley Fell, Social Researcher.

Death rates are on the decline

In 2018 there were over 158,000 deaths registered in Australia. With advancements in medical knowledge and greater awareness of healthy habits, this saw a 1.5% decrease on deaths registered in the previous year (more than 161,000).

The death rate (deaths per 1,000 people) has also declined, from 6% in 2008 to 5.1% in 2018. Therefore, in a community of 196 people, there will on average be one death per year.

The top five leading causes of death account for more than one-third of all registered deaths. The leading cause of death over the last decade has been Ischaemic heart disease. The standardised death rate from the disease has decreased more than 22% since 2009, in line with falls in heart disease related deaths for over the last 50 years.

Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, remains the second leading cause of death. This is an increase just shy of 69% since 2009.

Leading causes of deaths compared to 5 and 10 years ago (rounded to the nearest 100):

wdt_ID Disease 2019 2013 2009
1 Ischaemic heart diseases 17,500.0 19,800.0 22,600.0
2 Dementia, including Alzheimer diseases 14,000.0 10,900.0 8,300.0
3 Cerebrovascular diseases 10,000.0 10,500.0 11,200.0
4 Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung 8,600.0 8,200.0 7,800.0
5 Chronic lower respiratory diseases 7,900.0 7,000.0 6,000.0
6 Malignant neoplasm of colon, sigmoid, rectum and anus 5,400.0 5,400.0 5,200.0

Cause of death by gender

In 2018 there were over 82,000 male deaths and over 76,000 female deaths.The top five leading causes are the same for both males and females, although their ranking varies.

Changes in the top five leading causes for both males and females are driven by decreases in cardiovascular-related deaths and increases in deaths from Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death for both males and females. It is the second leading cause of death overall for men and the fifth for women.

Top 5 leading causes of death ranked by gender:

wdt_ID Cause of death Female Male
1 Dementia, including Alzheimer disease 1 3
2 Ischaemic heart diseases  2 1
3 Cerebrovascular diseases 3 4
4 Chronic lower respiratory diseases 4 5
5 Malignant neoplasm of trachea, bronchus and lung 5 2

While deaths, along with taxes, are certain, the good news is that they are, across Australia, in decline. This is all the more remarkable because Australia’s population is growing (up 18% in a decade), and ageing. Over the same decade, Australians have added an extra year of life expectancy. A 65-year-old today now has an average of 21 more years to live (to 86) than a 65-year-old in 2008 (who could expect, on average, to live until 85).” – Ashley Fell, Social Researcher.

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