Mortality rates (the number of people who die in a given year per 100,000 population) give a general measure of the health of a population. They are affected by the quality of health care, but also by a range of wider social, economic and environmental factors.
Measures of treatable mortality look at premature deaths for conditions where effective and timely health care can reduce the chances of death. They can provide a starting point to assess the quality and effectiveness of healthcare systems in reducing premature deaths.
The latest data presented here are for 2019, before the onset of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The mortality rate from all causes of death in England and Wales fell steadily between 1995 and 2011, from 1,392 deaths per 100,000 population to 979 deaths per 100,000 population. Since then, progress has stalled at 925 deaths per 100,000 population in 2019. The high number of excess deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to reverse the long-standing decline in mortality rates.
Male mortality rates are consistently higher than female mortality rates; however, the gap has narrowed slightly over time. In 1994, the mortality rate for males was 1.5 times higher than for females, while in 2019 it was 1.4 times higher. This is associated with improvements in mortality from cardiovascular disease, which has historically been higher in men, as well as a greater reduction in risk factors such as smoking among men than women.
In 2019, the OECD developed an internationally recognised definition of avoidable mortality, which can be split into preventable mortality and treatable mortality. Preventable mortality is defined as deaths that can be mainly avoided through effective public health and primary prevention interventions. Treatable (or amenable) mortality is defined as deaths that can be mainly avoided through timely and effective healthcare interventions, including secondary prevention and treatment.
In 2019, approximately 22% of deaths in the UK were considered avoidable. Of these, 64% were preventable and the remaining 36% were considered treatable. As with all-cause mortality rates, avoidable mortality rates decreased steadily until 2011, after which improvements stalled. The same trend is seen for both treatable and preventable mortality rates.
Avoidable mortality rates vary across the four countries of the UK. In 2019, Scotland had the highest avoidable mortality rate at 308 deaths per 100,000 population, and England had the lowest rate at 221 deaths per 100,000 population. However, it is worth noting that data for Scotland includes deaths of non-residents, which are excluded for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
There is a strong relationship between treatable mortality and deprivation. Treatable mortality rates are consistently higher in more deprived areas, and in the most deprived areas rates are higher for men than women. In 2019, the treatable mortality rate was 3.2 times higher for men in the most deprived areas of England (163 deaths per 100,000 men) than in the least deprived areas (51 deaths per 100,000 men). For women, amenable mortality was 2.5 times higher in the most deprived areas (122 deaths per 100,000 women) than in the least deprived areas (49 deaths per 100,000 women).
The treatable mortality rate decreased steadily between 2001 and 2013 for both men and women in all deprivation deciles. Since then, rates have continued to decrease, but at a slower rate. The decreases were greater in the least deprived areas, causing the gap in treatable mortality between the most and least deprived deciles to increase.
Treatable mortality rates can be used to compare health care access and quality across countries. They represent deaths that could have been avoided in the presence of optimal quality health care. Age-standardised treatable mortality rates have been decreasing over time in most of the comparator countries. The UK performs relatively poorly compared to other OECD countries. In 2016, the UK’s treatable mortality rate was 69 per 100,000, which is higher than 16 of the comparator countries. The United States has consistently had the highest treatable mortality rate, at 88 per 100,000 in 2017, while Australia has the lowest at 47 per 100,000.
About this data
Mortality rates are calculated as the total number of deaths registered in a calendar year divided by the mid-year population estimate for the respective year. Rates are calculated based on where the death was registered, rather than where the deceased was resident. For more information, see the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Quality and methodology information.
In 2019, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) developed an internationally recognised definition of avoidable mortality. When discussing avoidable deaths, the following terms are used:
- preventable mortality – deaths that can be mainly avoided through effective public health and primary prevention interventions
- treatable (or amenable) mortality – deaths that can be mainly avoided through timely and effective health care interventions, including secondary prevention and treatment
- avoidable mortality – deaths defined as either preventable or treatable
The attribution of causes of death to the preventable or treatable category is based on whether it is predominantly prevention or health care interventions that can reduce deaths. For those causes of death that can be both largely prevented and also treated once they have occurred, the cause of death is considered to be preventable on the rationale that if these diseases are prevented, there would be no need for treatment.
In the UK, this definition was implemented by the ONS in 2020 and updated avoidable mortality rates were published for 2001 to 2019 to allow comparisons over time. For detailed definitions of the causes of death considered to be preventable or amenable, see the OECD’s Avoidable mortality: OECD/Eurostat lists of preventable and treatable causes of death.
Age-standardised treatable mortality rates were calculated using the OECD/Eurostat list of treatable causes of death. Figures refer to premature mortality (aged under 75). For more information, see Health at a Glance 2019: OECD Indicators.