Have you ever wondered about the effect of COVID-19 on our overall population and life expectancy? Death statistics and changes in Australia’s population have changed significantly in the past few years due to COVID-19, and more recently from the Omicron strain. The Australian Government recently published their 2022 Population Statement, and these are the findings.

Australian life expectancy has continued to slightly decrease.

Deaths have increased 17% above the historical average due to the Omicron wave in 2022. This large statistic temporarily lowered Australia’s life expectancy, with 130,000 Australians dying in the first eight months of 2022.

Whilst COVID directly accounted for 7,700 of those deaths, there were also higher than average deaths from other common diseases, such as Ischemic heart disease, which has been the leading cause of death in Australia every year since 2019, and Dementia, which is the second leading cause of death in the nation.

The increase in deaths has temporarily lowered Australia’s life expectancy. Throughout 2021-22, life expectancies are expected to have fallen by just short of five months, and for 2022-23, they are forecast to drop by about 2.5 months for men and 3.5 months for women. However, these are projected to gradually increase again after 2023.

People with underlying health conditions are still at risk.

The report also revealed that people with underlying health conditions are still at serious risk from COVID-19. “Early data suggests COVID-19 may increase the risk of dying from other causes, while pre-existing conditions may also increase the risk of dying from COVID-19,” the report said.

From the beginning of the pandemic until November 2022, 2,564 people have died with COVID-19 rather than directly from the virus itself. Of the 2,564 people who died with COVID-19, cancers were the most common underlying cause of death. Blood and lymph cancers (e.g. leukaemia) were the most commonly certified cancer type among those deaths.

COVID-19 has a larger impact in other countries.

According to the population report, COVID-19 has had a much larger impact on life expectancies in other countries. In the United Kingdom, COVID-19 contributed to life expectancies falling by 1.5 years for males and 1.0 years for females in 2020. In the United States, COVID-19 was the primary driver of life expectancies falling by 2.0 years for males and 1.4 years for females in 2020.

What does the future hold?

There is considerable uncertainty remaining over the medium and long-term effect of COVID-19 on mortality. The risk of future COVID-19 waves and variants is unclear, as are the longer-term impacts of the burden of disease.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is expected to release their complete list of annual death statistics for the previous year (2022) in October 2023.

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