Young adult males experience higher mortality than females, and in age groups immediately younger and older, and with considerable variation in death rates over time. Trends in mortality and the cause structure of deaths among young adult Australian males over 1979–2011 are investigated, with a focus on suicide and drug overdose.
Methods: Mortality data by age for the period 1979 to 2011 and Australian population figures were obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Cause of death was investigated using relevant International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes, and mortality by cause was examined graphically over time according to various ICD aggregations. Mortality trends were contextualised in relation to labour market changes occurring in Australia from the 1980s to early 2000s.
Results: Although motor vehicle accident (MVA) mortality declined by half between 1980 and 1998 in males, this did not translate into a reduction in total young male mortality because of simultaneous increases in suicide, and drug-related deaths classified as either poisoning (external cause) or drug dependence (mental disorders). When both suicide and drug-related deaths declined concurrently after 1998, total 20–34 year male mortality declined by almost half (46%) over 1998–2011. Declines in external cause mortality accounted for 63% of the total mortality decline in 20–34 year males over 1998–2011. The close temporal coincidence (statistically significant) of increases and declines in suicide and drug-related deaths over a decade suggests related causality.
Conclusions: The coincidence of young male suicide and drug overdose mortality epidemics over the study period (excess deaths: 5000) suggest related causality such as exposure to common factors, including the labour market liberalisation and de-regulation of the 1990s, and deserves further investigation.
Professor Richard Taylor
MBBS(Syd), DTMH(Lon), FRCP(UK), PhD(Syd), FAFPHM
Richard Taylor graduated in Medicine from the USyd, is FRCP UK (Physician), and studied Tropical Medicine at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He was Epidemiologist for Pacific Islands based at the South Pacific Commission (Noumea, New Caledonia), and worked at Monash University (Melbourne), University of Sydney (USyd) School of Public Health, University of Queensland (UQ) School of Population Health, and now at University of New South Wales (UNSW) School of Public Health and Community Medicine (SPHCM) as Professor of International and Public Health. He commenced Master of International Public Health (MIPH) programs at USyd, UQ and UNSW.
Present research concerns the epidemiological transition and non-communicable disease and external cause epidemiology and prevention and control in Australia, other high income countries, and in middle and low income countries, particularly concerning cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer control, and suicide, focusing on populations in the Asia Pacific region. Research and service activities have resulted in 481 publications, including 272 refereed scientific articles (to 2018), which, when combined with their citations, produces an H index of 33 (Scopus).