Notes on the data: Aboriginal premature mortality by selected cause

Deaths from respiratory system diseases, Aboriginal people aged 0 to 64 and 0 to 74 years, 2016 to 2020


Policy context:  Respiratory system diseases are those that affect the respiratory tract (upper airway, trachea, bronchus and lung). They include cancers of the respiratory system, chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, influenza and other respiratory diseases [1]. They include chronic lower respiratory diseases, the second leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Respiratory system diseases are associated with a number of contributing factors, including poor environmental conditions, socioeconomic disadvantage, risky behaviour (particularly tobacco smoking, alcohol use, and substance use) and some previous medical conditions [2][3]. Infants and children are particularly susceptible to developing respiratory conditions, due to factors such as exposure to tobacco smoke, poor environmental conditions, and poor nutrition [2][3].

During 2014 to 2018, respiratory diseases caused 9% of deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (1,383 deaths) [4]. Sixty two percent were attributed to COPD, 4% to asthma and 17% to pneumonia and influenza. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die from respiratory system diseases at twice the rate of non-Indigenous people. [4]

The data show that, for 2016 to 2020, over two thirds (68.4%) of deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from respiratory system diseases occurred before 75 years of age, 41.7% before 65 years and 19.7% before 55 years – details here. This was almost three times the proportion for the non-Indigenous population at ages 0 to 74 years (68.4% c.f. 23.7%, a rate ratio of 2.89).


  1. Australia Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Australia's health 2010. (AIHW Cat. no. AUS 122). Canberra: AIHW; 2010.
  2. Pierce R, Antic R, Chang A, Howard M, James A, Maguire G et al. Respiratory and sleep health in Indigenous Australians. Sydney: Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand; 2010.
  3. Janu EK, Annabattula BI, Kumariah S, Zajaczkowska M, Whitehall JS, Edwards MJ et al. Paediatric hospitalisations for lower respiratory tract infections in Mount Isa. MJA 2014;200(10):591-4.
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Available from: last accessed 25 March 2022.

Notes:  International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision (ICD-10) codes: J00-J99

Deaths data

For deaths data released since 2007, the ABS has applied a staged approach to the coding of cause of death which affects the number of records available for release at any date. In general, the latest year’s data is preliminary, the second latest is revised and the data for the remaining years is final. For further information about the ABS revisions process see the following and related sites:

However, data published here are from the following releases: 2016 and 2017, final; 2018, revised; and 2019 and 2020, preliminary.

Data quality

Almost all deaths in Australia are registered. However, Indigenous status is not always recorded, or recorded correctly. The incompleteness of Indigenous identification (referred to as completeness of coverage) means that the number of deaths registered as Indigenous is an underestimate of the actual number of deaths which occur in the Indigenous population. It should also be noted that completeness of coverage is likely to vary between geographical areas.

While there is incomplete coverage of Indigenous deaths in all state and territory registration systems, some jurisdictions have been assessed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as having a sufficient level of coverage to enable statistics on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mortality to be produced. Those jurisdictions are New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.


Geography: Data available by Indigenous Area, Primary Health Network, Quintile of socioeconomic outcomes (based on IRSEO) and Remoteness Area


Numerator:  Aboriginal deaths from respiratory system diseases at ages 0 to 64 and 0 to 74 years


Denominator:  Aboriginal population aged 0 to 64 and 0 to 74 years


Detail of analysis:  Average annual indirectly age-standardised rate per 100,000 Aboriginal population (aged 0 to 64 and 0 to 74 years); and/or indirectly age-standardised ratio, based on the Australian standard


Source:  Data compiled by PHIDU from deaths data based on the 2016 to 2020 Cause of Death Unit Record Files supplied by the Australian Coordinating Registry and the Victorian Department of Justice, on behalf of the Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the National Coronial Information System. The population is the proportional estimated resident population (erp), developed by PHIDU, 2016 to 2020 average: click herefor more details.


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