Excess deaths rose by nearly 20,000 in Australia

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New research released by the Actuaries Institute has revealed that Australia recorded nearly 20,000 more deaths than expected in 2022.

The Institute said that just over half (10,300) of the nearly excess deaths were attributable to COVID-19. This was around 12 per cent higher than expected.

According to Actuaries Institute chief executive Elayne Grace, “These figures are a stark reminder of the tremendous impact COVID-19 has had across Australia. Although people have largely moved on with their lives beyond the lockdowns and border closures, the fact is that COVID-19 remains a key contributor to the majority of excess mortality.”

The analysis is based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest provisional mortality data.

Deaths from COVID-19 peaked in the last week of July, then trended downwards until the end of October before rising throughout November and December.

COVID-19 was also a contributing factor to an additional 2,900 deaths. For the remaining 6,600 excess deaths, COVID-19 was not mentioned on the death certificates for those people.

The spokeswoman for the Institute’s COVID-19 Mortality Working Group, Karen Cutter, said that to have 12 per cent excess mortality over a 12-month period is exceptional.

“It is not within normal levels of fluctuation in non-pandemic times,” she said.

“COVID-19 accounts for about half of this excess, and we are also seeing a significant amount of excess mortality that is not recorded as due to COVID-19 on death certificates. While it is likely that COVID-19 was a catalyst for the deaths of those dying with COVID-19, there are a large number of excess deaths with no documented COVID-19 involvement.

“We do, however, think it is likely that the pandemic played a role in many of these deaths due to three main factors. Firstly, mortality risk is higher subsequent to an acute covid infection, and most Australians have now had COVID-19.

“Secondly, people have not accessed medical care when needed, either through inability (in emergency situations) or through fear/lack of opportunity (thus missing routine care earlier in the pandemic). Lastly, some of these deaths could be undiagnosed COVID-19 deaths.”