Whichever pirate coined the phrase "dead men tell no tales" had never met a statistician.

If anything, looking at how and why people die in any given region tells the story of that place, and gives a snapshot about that period in history.

For instance, fewer people died in Hamilton last year than any of the previous four years, which mirrors national trends. Today, people are living longer on the whole, says Harry Shannon, a professor in the department of clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McMaster University. This signals a change in life expectancy and quality of life compared to the past, he says.

“Life expectancy is going up and we’re all living longer — and that’s a result, primarily, of death rates going down," he told CBC Hamilton. Life expectancy in Canada has gone up to age 79 for men and 83 for women, he says. “There are some predictions that half of kids born today will live to be 100.”

This chart breaks down deaths reported to the office of the coroner in Hamilton since 2008:

Year Accident Homicide Natural Suicide Undetermined
2008 184 6 427 52 23
2009 193 7 418 70 27
2010 216 10 373 47 31
2011 194 5 359 46 33
2012* 165 7 348 48 28

–*Preliminary figures, which are subject to change once the statistical year has been completed. Source: office of the chief coroner.

CBC Hamilton looked at some of the specific ways people from Hamilton have been dying. The full list can be found by scrolling through the photo gallery above — but here are some interesting snippets from what we found.

Lightning kills

Luckily, no one in Hamilton was killed by lightning last year. That wasn't the case in 2010. The office of the chief coroner did report local lightning deaths that year, but isn't able to give a specific number under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act (FIPPA) as fewer than five people died and it could identify someone.

Lightning flashes through the sky in Canada about 2.34 million times a year, including about once every three seconds during the summer months, peaking in July. Each year in Canada, lightning strikes kill up to 10 people, seriously injure up to 164 others, and ignite some 4,000 forest fires, according to Environment Canada.

The lightning capital of Canada is Windsor, Ont.. Remember the old wives' tale that you're safe in a car because of the rubber tires during a lightning storm? Wrong. The lightning strike between the cloud and the ground has potentially travelled thousands of meters through thin air, so rubber soled footwear or tires aren't going to protect you.

That said, the shell of your car does provide some protection, so you're better off in there than outside, battling the elements.

You're more likely to die from being hit by a car than from a fire in Hamilton

It's true — there were more pedestrian deaths in Hamilton in the last five years than people killed by fires. Eight people were killed on city streets in 2012, compared to fewer than five by fire (again, the coroner can't give specifics under five because of FIPPA).

According to a pedestrian death review from the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario:

  • 75 per cent of pedestrian traffic fatalities occurred on urban roads
  • 60 per cent of pedestrians killed in traffic crashes were trying to cross the road
  • 35 per cent of fatally injured pedestrians are aged 65 or older even though they represent only 13% of the population
  • 63 per cent of pedestrians killed at intersections are 65 or older
  • 6 per cent of fatally injured pedestrians are under the age of 16 and of these, 20 per cent ran out into the street
  • 33 per cent of fatally injured pedestrians act in a way that caused or contributed to a crash
  • 33 per cent of fatally injured pedestrians are struck by a driver who committed a traffic infraction prior to the crash
  • 60 per cent of pedestrians are killed at night or during dim light conditions when they were not seen by drivers
  • 40 per cent of fatally injured pedestrians had been drinking

According to that same coroner's pedestrian death review, a “complete streets” approach needs to be adopted to guide the development of new communities and the redevelopment of existing communities in Ontario. "Complete streets should be designed to be safe, convenient and comfortable for every user, regardless of transportation mode, physical ability or age," the report reads.

Heart disease and stroke number one killer

Heart disease and stroke were the number one killers in Hamilton last year, much like the rest of Canada. The coroner's office reports that 187 people died from cardiovascular disease in Hamilton in 2012. In the last five years, cardiovascular disease has been the number one cause of death by a wide margin.

Historically, heart disease and stroke have been two of the three leading causes of death nationally. Someone dies from heart disease or stroke every seven minutes in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

Aside from the obvious personal toll, heart disease and stroke costs the Canadian economy more than $20.9 billion every year in physician services, hospital costs, lost wages and decreased productivity, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

Falling down second leading cause of death

Simply falling down can be lethal too — especially for seniors. According to Public Health Canada, over 60 per cent of injury-related hospitalizations for seniors are because of falls. Falling injuries are also nine times more likely to happen among seniors than the rest of the population.

There were 76 falling deaths in Hamilton in 2012, good for second place overall. Falls from a height accounted for 23 additional deaths.