OTTAWA - Statistics Canada says the number of deaths registered in Canada recorded its fastest increase in three years in 2005, reflecting a growing and aging population.

The agency says the gap in the annual number of deaths continued to narrow between men and women and that the average age at death rose steadily from 1990 to 2005.

It says 230,132 people died in Canada in 2005, up 1.6 per cent from 2004 and the fastest annual increase since a 1.9% increase in 2002.

The jump follows a rise of only 0.2 per cent in 2004, which was one of the smallest annual increases in the number of deaths in 25 years.

From 1990 to 2005, the average age at death rose 3.5 years for men, to 71.1 years and by 3.2 years for women, to 77.4 years.

In 2005, the average age at death for the population as a whole was 74.2 years, although the average varied across the country, from a high of 75.6 in Prince Edward Island to 47.8 in Nunavut.

The national infant mortality rate rose slightly in 2005, to 5.4 deaths for every 1,000 live births from 5.3.

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