What are the most common causes of accidental death in Australia?

Published 15 May 2018

Author: Gerard Malouf

Losing someone is always difficult, but accidental deaths can be particularly traumatising for surviving loved ones because they rarely get to say their final goodbyes.

Any deaths that are unexpected or unintentional are usually classified as accidental, and family members are often eligible for specific benefits to provide financial support after a sudden loss.

But what types of accidental death are common in Australia? We’ve examined the research and have compiled a list of risk factors.

1. Falls

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) lists accidental falls as the leading cause of death that is not linked to a disease or self-harm.

There were 2,474 accidental fall deaths in 2016, according to ABS data, placing it in sixteenth on the rankings. The average age of someone who dies from an accidental fall is 87, suggesting most incidents are likely exacerbated by the effects of ageing.

2. Poisoning

Accidental poisoning is the second most common cause of death in people aged between 25 and 44, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) figures show. It is the third leading contributor in 15-to-24-year-olds.

AIHW data shows that two-thirds of accidental poisoning deaths are among males, and the rate of premature fatalities climbed 258 per cent between 1982 and 2012. Accidental poisoning includes non-intentional drug overdoses and some alcohol-related deaths.

3. Traffic accidents

Motor vehicle crashes killed 112 people across the country in March, federal government research reveals. The road toll for the year to March was 1,270.

The AIHW lists land transport accidents as the most common cause of death among children aged between one and 14. They are also the second and third leading cause of death among 15–24-year-olds and 25–44-year-olds, respectively.

4. Drowning

Nearly 300 people drowned in Australian waterways in 2017, the latest Royal Life Saving report found. The number of drowning deaths appears to be on the increase, with 266 in 2015, 282 in 2016 and 291 last year.

Almost three-quarters of victims are men, and NSW and Queensland are the hot spots for such incidents. There were 93 and 73 drowning deaths in each state, respectively, in 2017. Twenty-three per cent of people drown in rivers, streams or creeks.

Making an accidental death benefits claim

The unexpected death of a loved one typically means their accumulated super and any insurance payouts are distributed to surviving family members.

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