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What are the leading causes of death in Canada?

Cancer and heart disease are still the leading causes of death across Canada.

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Every year, Statistics Canada records the number of deaths across Canada — and the major diseases that Canadians are dying from. We combed through this data to find the leading causes of death, as well as which conditions were different among men and women.

The 10 leading causes of death in Canada

To get these numbers, we looked at the latest Statistics Canada latest mortality data (2019). Interestingly, we learned that the ranking of most of the top 10 leading causes of death didn’t change between 2018 and 2019, except accidental deaths surpassed cerebrovascular diseases to reach the number 3 spot. Also, unlike in 2018, more people died from diabetes then from the flu or pneumonia. Generally speaking, however, the data shows that Canadians are falling victim to the same diseases and health conditions year-after-year.

How do leading causes of death in Canada compare for men and women?

For both men and women, the top 2 leading causes of death were cancer and heart disease.

However, men had a relatively higher incidence of accidents and suicide, while more women died from cerebrovascular diseases and chronic lower respiratory diseases. These differences aside, the list of common deaths was made up of the usual suspects, including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and pneumonia.

Take a look at the graphs and tables below to get a more detailed picture on the 10 leading causes of death in Canada.

RankCause of deathTotal number of deaths
1Cancer80,152
2Heart disease52,541
3Accidents13,746
4Cerebrovascular diseases13,660
5Chronic lower respiratory diseases12,823
6Diabetes6,912
7Flu and pneumonia6,893
8Alzheimer’s disease6,166
9Suicide4,012
10Kidney diseases3,767

What are chronic lower respiratory diseases (CLRDs)?

CLRDs are conditions that affect the lungs, such as:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — including emphysema and chronic bronchitis
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Occupational lung diseases

While these diseases are typically associated with smoking, non-smokers can also contract them.

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The top 10 causes of death for men

These were the leading causes of death among Canadian men. Interestingly, instances of all top 10 causes of death for men increased in 2019 compared to 2018, with the exception of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases and flu and pneumonia which all decreased.

RankCause of deathNumber of deaths
1Cancer42,848
2Heart disease28,292
3Accidents7,829
4Chronic lower respiratory diseases6,342
5Cerebrovascular diseases5,958
6Diabetes3,882
7Flu and pneumonia3,265
8Suicide3,058
9Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis2,365
10Alzheimer’s disease1,989

The top 10 causes of death for women

As for Canadian women, the incidence of accidents were higher in 2019 as opposed to 2018. All other top 10 causes of death were less in 2019.

RankCause of deathNumber of deaths
1Cancer37,304
2Heart disease24,249
3Cerebrovascular diseases7,702
4Chronic lower respiratory diseases6,481
5Accidents5,917
6Alzheimer’s disease4,177
7Flu and pneumonia3,628
8Diabetes3,030
9Kidney diseases1,863
10Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis1,297

Compare leading causes of death with the COVID death rate in Canada

Although Statistics Canada has not yet released its official report on the top leading causes of death in Canada in 2020, we can still use data from previous years to get an idea about how the 2020 COVID death rate compares to the norm from 2019.

In 2020 alone, 15,606 people died from COVID-19 in Canada. When compared to death rates reported for 2019, that would make COVID-19 the third leading cause of death in Canada – surpassed only by heart disease and cancer.

RankCause of deathTotal number of deaths
1Cancer80,152
2Heart disease52,541
3COVID-19 (in 2020)15,606
4Accidents13,746
5Cerebrovascular diseases13,660
6Chronic lower respiratory diseases12,823
7Diabetes6,912
8Flu and pneumonia6,893
9Alzheimer’s disease6,166
10Suicide4,012
11Kidney diseases3,767

It’s important to remember that without a comprehensive report on the leading causes of death in Canada for 2020, it’s impossible to get a completely accurate picture of the data. Statistics Canada has already found that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted other death rates as well — for example, increasing death rates due to substance abuse and delayed medical procedures, while possibly decreasing the death rate of normal flus. Because of that, the information in this section is meant to give you a vague comparison only until more up-to-date data is released.

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What’s the average age of death in Canada?

With all this talk of death, it’s important to keep in mind that the average age of death in Canada is still relatively high. The average life expectancy is 79.9 years for men and 84.1 years for women. While there are many factors that can impact your life expectancy, like your environment and family history, the majority of Canadians live long lives.

How we collected this data

To learn about the leading causes of death among Canadians, we turned to the Statistics Canada mortality data. Statistics Canada analyzes deaths and diseases each year, with the most recent data focused on 2019. We’ll update this page as new data is released.

Our top picks for life insurance

While no one can predict the future, life insurance can be a good way to help your loved ones even if the worst should happen. If you’re thinking about getting life insurance, compare quality providers below.

How do life insurance companies assess your life expectancy?

The general rule is that the healthier you are, the less you’ll have to pay for life insurance. Each insurance provider has its own underwriting process. As such, some put more weight on certain evaluation factors over others. Take a look at a few points that will be assessed:

  • Age. How old you are plays possibly the biggest role in determining your premiums. The younger you are, the lower your premiums will typically be.
  • Gender. Women typically end up with lower premiums than men, mostly due to women having a higher average life expectancy.
  • Certain health indicators. When a medical exam or medical questions are involved, your weight, height, blood pressure and any history of major diseases or medical conditions help determine your premiums.
  • Family health history. Major health conditions and diseases in your immediate family are likely taken into account. Cancer, cardiac arrest, kidney disease and stroke are among what may affect your premiums.
  • Smoking. General frequency, and the last time you smoked before your medical exam, will likely be considered when determining how much you’ll pay in premiums.
  • Substance use. Alcohol or drug use that has resulted in doctor-mandated rehabilitation and illegal substance abuse are likely to increase your premiums. Life insurance companies generally believe that if you avoid or moderate these substances, you’ll be prevented from getting their associated diseases.
  • High-risk occupations and hobbies. Certain occupations and hobbies are considered riskier than others. Being a lumberjack is objectively more dangerous than working in accounting. Likewise, a skydiving hobby will earn your application more scrutiny than needlepoint.
  • Driving and criminal records. Several tickets within a short period of time, DUIs and arrests can contribute to what your policy costs.

Bottom line

Understanding the leading causes of death is just one of many factors life insurance companies will take into account when determining your rates. A good life insurance policy can protect your family financially if you pass away prematurely, and give you the peace of mind in knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of when you’re gone. To get great coverage at a premium you can afford, compare life insurance companies.

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