Just over 141 thousand people in the Netherlands died in 2013. According to the latest cause of death figures released by Statistics Netherlands last week, most of them died of cancer and cardiovascular disease: 30 percent (42 thousand) from cancer and 27 percent (38 thousand) from cardiovascular disease. Statistics Netherlands used automatic coding of some causes of death for 2013.
Most common causes of death, 2013
Shifts in causes of death
Mortality from cardiovascular disease in 2013 was almost the same as in 2012. Mortality from cancer was 2.4 percent lower in 2013 than in 2012. The transfer to automatic coding had only a minor effect on these causes of death.
For some causes of death substantial shifts were observed. There was a notable rise in the number of deaths from dementia (incl. Alzheimer’s disease) and brain haemorrhages. The number of people dying from pneumonia, on the other hand, dropped substantially.
To examine the exact effect of automatic cause of death coding, the input for 2009 was coded both manually and automatically for seventy causes of death.
Automatic coding increases the international comparability of causes of death. It is used in more than 20 countries, including the United States and 11 European countries. The number of countries using automatic coding will rise further in the coming years. It makes the selection of the underlying cause of death transparent and reproducible. External causes of death and deaths of infants younger than 12 months are still coded manually.
Coding consists of applying decision rules, to derive the ‘underlying cause of death’ from all the information in the cause of death form. Manual coding is sometimes affected by intrinsic medical knowledge, which results in different decisions being made than in automatic coding. In the statistics, this is reflected as shifts between causes of death.