(Image: AAP/Private Media)

Causes of death have perhaps never been so close to the forefront of public debate as in 2020. The lengths to which we will go to avoid deaths — the policies we are prepared to enact — are clearer than ever before. This should lead to much clearer thinking about how to reduce the burden of death society endured before the pandemic.

So it is that the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ release of data on causes of death in 2019 is received with more attention than usual. It provides a baseline by which we will compare 2020.

But it does more than that. Looking at the data over time shows that we can change causes of death, by policy, by scientific progress and by health system funding. Accidental drownings and murders are down. So are colon cancer deaths.

But where policy has been slow to tread, and where science lags, deaths rise. Suicide and dementia are a significantly greater cause of death than they were 10 years ago.

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