Covid: New report outlines Covid’s impact on Australian health

Mortality in Australia rose sharply in the first half of the year. A new report from the Australian Health and Welfare Agency explains why.

More Australians have died from Covid in the last six months than in the previous two years of the pandemic.

A new report from the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW) has provided new insight into how the virus has affected the nation’s health.

One way to understand the impact of the pandemic is to look at the death rate, or what experts call excess deaths.

This is a measure that counts how many people are expected to die each week compared to how many people actually died.

Deaths above the expected level for two consecutive weeks are referred to as “excess deaths”.

Before the pandemic, mortality was declining.

Thanks to lockdowns and other public health measures, Australia saw fewer deaths from all causes in 2020 and 2021.

“There were 205 fewer deaths than expected in 2020 and 94 more than expected in 2021,” AIHW Deputy Executive Director Matthew James said.

This was largely due to a decrease in mortality from influenza and pneumonia.

Australia has been able to keep Covid deaths at very low levels for nearly two years.

But the decision to lift restrictions amid a surge in Omicron cases resulted in 3,105 more deaths than expected in January and February 2022 alone.

If you lived in a poor socioeconomic area, you were three times more likely to die from Covid than those who lived in the highest socioeconomic area.

If you were born abroad, you are 2.5 times more likely to die from Covid.

In addition, rates of severe Covid-19 illness (intensive care unit admission and/or death) were seven times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared to the general Australian population.

In 2021, 23,000 years of healthy life were lost due to Covid-19.

The AIHW said the total lethal burden — or years of life lost due to premature death — from the virus equals 15 years of life lost per person.

How does it compare with other diseases?

The data shows that while Covid-19 accounted for a high proportion of excess deaths in the first half of 2022, there were also more than expected deaths due to other conditions.

Mortality rates from coronary heart disease (29 percent), dementia (24 percent) and chronic lower respiratory disease (23 percent) were also higher.

Stockholm (20 percent) and diabetes (14 percent) round out the top five causes of death this year by far.

Good news

During the pandemic lockdown, there were concerns that social distancing measures could lead to an increase in estimated suicide deaths.

An AIHW report released on Thursday indicates that there are no concerns to date.

“Despite an increase in the use of mental health services and an increase in psychological stress, Covid-19 has not been associated with an increase in presumed suicide deaths,” Mr. James said.

Originally published as New report reveals what is killing so many Aussies