Australia is facing a devastating surge in deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The ABS reports reveal that COVID-19 has now become the third-leading cause of death in the country, with a significant increase in mortality rates in 2022. The number of deaths registered in 2022 was 190,939, which is nearly 20,000 more than the previous year. Of these deaths, COVID-19 was listed as the primary cause in 9,859 cases and as a contributing factor in 2,782 cases. These numbers show a disturbing rise in COVID-19-related deaths that has not shown any signs of improvement in 2023.
This rise in COVID-19-related deaths is unprecedented and marks a significant departure from previous years. In 2020, COVID-19 ranked 38th on the list of leading causes of death, and in 2021, it climbed to 33rd. This is the first time since 2006 that there has been a change in the top five causes of death in Australia. The impact of COVID-19 is further highlighted by the fact that the last time an infectious disease featured in the top five leading causes of death was in 1970. The rate of death from COVID-19 has also significantly increased since 2020 and 2021, now responsible for more than one in 20 deaths in Australia. It is the third-leading cause of death, behind coronary heart disease and dementia.
The ABS reports attribute the surge in deaths to the Omicron variant, which has been the dominant strain of the virus in 2022. This highly contagious variant caused multiple waves of infections throughout the year, particularly affecting New South Wales and Victoria, where the highest number of COVID-19-related deaths occurred. Despite claims in some Western mainstream media that the Omicron variant is mild, the data from the ABS and other sources suggest otherwise. Excess deaths continue to rise in many countries, including Australia, in 2023.
The increase in deaths in Australia is not solely due to COVID-19. While an aging population naturally leads to an increase in deaths over time, advancements in medical care and treatments usually result in a decrease in age-standardized mortality rates. However, the surge in deaths in 2022 led to excess mortality, where the actual mortality rate exceeds the expected rate. This concerning trend requires further analysis and attention.
The ABS reports also provide demographic insights into those who succumbed to COVID-19. The median age of COVID-19-related deaths was 85.8 years, higher than the average age of death from all causes, which was 82.2 years. More than half of the deaths were male, and pneumonia was the most common acute disease outcome in COVID-19 deaths. Cardiac conditions were the most commonly reported pre-existing conditions among COVID-19 deaths.
In addition to the impact of COVID-19, the ABS reports highlight other notable trends in causes of death. While heart disease and strokes have seen a decline in mortality rates over the past decade, deaths due to dementia have increased by 56%. Diabetes-related deaths have also risen by nearly 40%. Another concerning finding is the increase in alcohol-induced deaths, which have been rising for four consecutive years.
These ABS reports for 2022 and early 2023 paint a grim picture of the impact of COVID-19 on Australia’s mortality landscape. COVID-19 has emerged as the third-leading cause of death, with the Omicron variant playing a significant role. The demographic insights provided by the ABS reports emphasize the vulnerability of certain populations, particularly those with pre-existing cardiac conditions. Additionally, the rise in deaths due to dementia, diabetes, and alcohol-induced causes calls for attention and action. It is crucial for policymakers, healthcare professionals, and the community to work together to mitigate these trends and prioritize the well-being of the population.