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The definitions used for the production of statistical tables of Canadian vital statistics data are based on those recommended by the World Health Organization1and the United Nations2.

Age: Age attained at the last birthday preceding death. In the case of infant deaths, the completed number of months (or minutes, hours, or days) since birth.

Cause of death: The cause of death coded and tabulated is the underlying cause of death. This is defined as “(a) the disease or injury which initiated the train of morbid events leading directly to death, or (b) the circumstances of the accident or violence which produced the fatal injury”. This underlying cause of death is selected from a number of conditions listed on the medical certificate of cause of death.

Beginning in the year 2000 in Canada, causes of death and stillbirth are coded to the 10th revision of the World Health Organization’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD–10). The previous revision, ICD–93 was used in Canada for the classification of cause of death and stillbirth from 1979 to 1999.

Death: The permanent disappearance of all evidence of life at any time after a live birth has taken place. Stillbirths are excluded from death statistics unless otherwise indicated.

  • Infant death: Death of a child under one year of age.

ICD–10 codes: The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) codes, 10th Revision, were established by the World Health Organization in 1992. The ICD–10 manual assigns codes to specific diseases, injuries and causes of death.

Live birth: The complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of conception, irrespective of the duration of the pregnancy, which, after such separation, breathes or shows any other evidence of life, such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached.

Mortality rates

  • Age–standardized mortality rate: Age–standardization removes the effects of differences in the age structure of populations among areas and over time. Age-standardized mortality rates show the number of deaths per 100,000 population that would have occurred in a given area if the age structure of the population of that area was the same as the age structure of a specified standard population.

The formula for an age–standardized mortality rate r is:


For age group i:

di is the age-sex-specific death count for a particular cause of death for a given year and geographic area,

piis the age-sex-specific population estimates for July 1 of the same year and geographic area, and

is the weight for that age group in a standard population. This standard population and calculated weights are reproduced below. Note that the same weight is used for each sex.

To yield a rate per 100,000 population, r is multiplied by 100,000.

The standard population used in the calculation of age-standardized mortality rates is the 1991 Canadian Census of Population, by age group, both sexes combined.

Table A
Standardized–population by age group, Canada, July 1st, 1991 (both sexes)

Group Age in years Standard population Weight
1 less than 1 403,061 0.0143
2 1 to 4 1,550,285 0.0551
3 5 to 9 1,953,045 0.0695
4 10 to 14 1,913,115 0.068
5 15 to 19 1,926,090 0.0685
6 20 to 24 2,109,452 0.075
7 25 to 29 2,529,239 0.0899
8 30 to 34 2,598,289 0.0924
9 35 to 39 2,344,872 0.0834
10 40 to 44 2,138,891 0.0761
11 45 to 49 1,674,153 0.0595
12 50 to 54 1,339,902 0.0476
13 55 to 59 1,238,441 0.044
14 60 to 64 1,190,217 0.0423
15 65 to 69 1,084,588 0.0386
16 70 to 74 834,024 0.0297
17 75 to 79 622,221 0.0221
18 80 to 84 382,303 0.0136
19 85 to 89 192,410 0.0068
20 90 and over 95,467 0.0034
Total ... 28,120,065 1
Source:Statistic Canada
  • Age–specific mortality rate: The number of deaths in a particular age group during a given year per 100,000 population in the same age group as of July of the same year.
  • Infant mortality rate: The number of infant deaths duringa given year per 100,000 live births in the same year.

Population: Persons whose usual place of residence is somewhere in Canada, including Canadian government employees stationed abroad and their families, members of the Canadian Forces stationed abroad and their families, crews of Canadian merchant vessels, and non-permanent residents of Canada.

Mid-year (July 1) population estimates are used to calculate the rates in vital statistics publications (see table footnotes). Population estimates are frequently revised by Statistics Canada's Demography Division.

Provinces and territories: The geographic distribution of deaths in the tables of this publication is based on the deceased’s usual place of residence.

Rank of leading causes of death: The rank is based on the number of deaths of each leading cause of death. When there is the same number of deaths for more than one leading cause, the ranks assigned will be the same. Consequently, the next rank in line will be incremented by the number of equal ranks. For example, if there are three leading causes of death with 4th rank, the next leading cause will be rank 7th.


1. World Health Organization (WHO). International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision, Volumes and 2 (ICD-10). Geneva, 1992.

2. United Nations. Principles and Recommendations for a Vital Statistics System. Statistical Papers, Series M, No. 9, Rev.1. New York, 1974.

3. Health Organization (WHO). International Classification of Diseases, 1975 Revision, Volume 1 (ICD–9). Geneva, 1977.