Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Is mortality from heart failure increasing in Australia? An analysis of official data on mortality for 1997–2003

Farid Najafi, Annette J Dobson, & Konrad Jamrozik



To assess whether trends in mortality from heart failure (HF) in Australia are due to a change in awareness of the condition or real changes in its epidemiology.


We carried out a retrospective analysis of official data on national mortality data between 1997 and 2003. A death was attributed to HF if the death certificate mentioned HF as either the underlying cause of death (UCD) or among the contributory factors.


From a total of 907 242 deaths, heart failure was coded as the UCD for 29 341 (3.2%) and was mentioned anywhere on the death certificate in 135 268 (14.9%). Between 1997 and 2003, there were decreases in the absolute numbers of deaths and in the age-specific and age-standardized mortality rates for HF either as UCD or mentioned anywhere for both sexes. HF was mentioned for 24.6% and 17.8% of deaths attributed to ischaemic heart disease and circulatory disease, respectively, and these proportions remained unchanged over the period of study. In addition, HF as UCD accounted for 8.3% of deaths attributed to circulatory disease and this did not change materially from 1997 to 2003.


The decline in mortality from HF measured as either number of deaths or rate probably reflects a real change in the epidemiology of HF. Population-based studies are required to determine accurately the contributions of changes in incidence, survival and demographic factors to the evolving epidemiology of HF.