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Death in Canada - Statistics & Facts

Thanks to public health efforts and advances in healthcare, Canadians have been able to live longer, healthier lives. Major causes of death in Canada are mostly related to non-communicable diseases including cardiovascular diseases, such as ischemic heart disease, and cancer. However, the number of deaths and causes vary by province and territory, age group, and gender. One major health issue of concern that Canada shares with its neighbor to the south is the ongoing opioid crisis. Some provinces have been hit harder than others, with the death rate from opioid overdose in British Columbia nearly double the national average.

Causes of death

The death rate for all causes has increased over time in Canada as the population continues to age. Major causes of death include acute and chronic respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular diseases. Over the past two decades, accidents and unintentional injuries have contributed to an increasing number of deaths, reaching a rate of nearly 37 per 100,000 population in 2019. Furthermore, since the passing of federal legislature allowing medically assisted deaths in Canada in 2015, there have been almost 21,600 medically assisted deaths as of 2020.


As in the rest of the world, the overall burden due to cancer is very high in Canada, and is expected to increase as the population continues to grow and age. In 2020, cancer caused an estimated 83,300 deaths in Canada. Cancer of the lung and bronchus causes the highest number of cancer deaths for both men and women, followed by colorectal cancer. On the other hand, breast and prostate cancers, two other very commonly diagnosed cancers, have low mortality rates that are continually on the decline.

Opioid deaths

Opioids account for the majority of drug overdose deaths in Canada, with accidental opioid overdose deaths highest among those aged 30 to 39 years. The ongoing opioid crisis has been further complicated by the appearance of strong, illegally manufactured synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil, which can cause overdose and respiratory depression in very small amounts. In 2020, over 80 percent of opioid overdose deaths in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario involved fentanyl.


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