The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released its top 10 causes of death for 2020, and the results might surprise you.
Contrary to what many expected, Australia’s mortality rate declined by 8,001 during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with fewer people out and about in the community. We had 161,300 registered deaths in 2020, down from 169,301 in 2019, ABS data shows.
And COVID was way down the list of causes.
“COVID-19 was the 38th ranked cause of death in 2020, with 898 deaths recorded through the civil registration system,” said Lauren Moran, ABS director of mortality statistics.
“With fewer than 900 deaths from COVID-19 in 2020 and public health measures suppressing the spread of other infectious diseases, deaths from many causes also decreased,” she said.
Australia’s top five leading causes of death remained unchanged between 2019 and 2020, with heart disease still the prime cause. However there was a reduction in the overall mortality rate of each cause. In fact, it was the first time the death rate for each of the top five causes had fallen since 2008-09.
Top causes of death in Australia during 2020
- Heart disease
- Dementia (including Alzheimer’s)
- Stroke (Cerebrovascular diseases)
- Lung cancer
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases
Stay-at-home orders reduced the spread of infectious diseases like the common cold (influenza) and pneumonia, which dropped from the 9th leading cause of death (in 2019) to 17th on the list. In 2020, there were only 55 deaths due to the flu, compared with 1,080 in 2019. All of those fatal flu cases were reported before July, before the bulk of the COVID lockdowns, according to the ABS.
There were also decreases in reported deaths from suicide, drug overdoses and motor vehicle incidents. The suicide rate was 12.1 per 100,000 people, down from 12.9 in 2019.
On the other hand, alcohol-induced deaths increased by 8.3 per cent (or 108 additional deaths) in 2020, compared with 2019.
The decline in mortality was fairly consistent across the country, with all jurisdictions except the Australian Capital Territory recording a decrease in death registrations in 2020.
What about a COVID baby boom?
While deaths were down in 2020, births declined as well. Data from Statista estimates a nearly four per cent decrease in births in 2020. Around 294,400 babies were born that year, down from 306,200 in 2019.
It’s too soon to know if being stuck indoors with our significant others led to a pandemic baby boom. Official ABS 2020 birth figures won’t be published until December 2021 – and that won’t account for all the babies made during the year.
We’ll have to wait another year to find out if Australians spent lockdown watching Netflix without the “chill”.
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