Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Dementia in Australia, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 03 February 2023.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Dementia in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/dementia/dementia-in-aus
Dementia in Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 16 September 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/dementia/dementia-in-aus
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Dementia in Australia [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2023 Feb. 3]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/dementia/dementia-in-aus
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Dementia in Australia, viewed 3 February 2023, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/dementia/dementia-in-aus
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Older people living with dementia are particularly vulnerable during infectious disease outbreaks. From the start of the pandemic to 29 July 2022, there have been just under 3,400 deaths due to COVID-19 in residential aged care facilities (DHAC 2022), where it is thought over half of people have dementia (AIHW 2022).
In addition to being exposed to outbreaks in aged care homes, older people living with dementia are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe COVID-19 for several reasons, including that people with dementia often have numerous comorbidities and may have difficulties understanding and following public health recommendations. This makes people with dementia a particularly vulnerable group during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with dementia are also substantial, and include accelerated cognitive decline, more severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, and disruptions in the provision of healthcare and other services.
The ABS publishes COVID-19 mortality estimates as the pandemic continues to evolve in Australia and worldwide. In late 2021, Australia had its first nationwide outbreak of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with the Omicron variant infecting people in all states and territories.
Between the start of the pandemic and 30 June 2022, there have been just over 7,000 deaths due to COVID-19 registered. Just over two thirds (68%) of these have occurred in 2022 alone.
Out of these, just under 5,400 had a pre-existing condition reported on the death certificate. Of these deaths, 31% had dementia recorded, making it the second most common pre-existing condition after chronic cardiac conditions (38%) (ABS 2022a).
Figure 3.9 shows the most common pre-existing conditions recorded for deaths due to COVID-19 in Australia.
It is also important to understand where COVID-19 may have contributed to a death, even if it was not the underlying cause. Additional to the 7,000 deaths due to COVID-19, there have been 1,162 deaths which were COVID-19 related. This is where the person either died with COVID-19 or where complications from a previous COVID-19 infection were considered to contribute to the death. Of these, dementia (including Alzheimer’s) was the cause of death for 20%, making dementia the third most common underlying cause of death among people who died with COVID-19, below cancer (27%) and circulatory system diseases (25%) (ABS 2022a).
To measure changes in mortality patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery period, the ABS has also been publishing provisional mortality statistics for Australia. These statistics indicate that in 2021:
Provisional mortality information will continue to be made available for 2022. Between January and April 2022, there were just over 5,200 deaths due to dementia, which was 21% higher than the baseline average of around 3,200. For deaths in 2022, the baseline years for comparison are 2017-19 and 2021, rather than 2015-19 and 2021, as has been previously used (ABS 2022c).
AIHW (2022) Dementia in Australia: Aged care and support services used by people with dementia, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 17 August 2022.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2022a) COVID-19 Mortality in Australia: Deaths registered until 30 June 2022, ABS, Australian Government, accessed 17 August 2022.
ABS (2022b) Provisional mortality statistics, Jan 2020–Dec 2021, ABS, Australian Government, accessed 17 August 2022.
ABS (2022c) Provisional mortality statistics, Jan–Apr 2022, ABS, Australian Government, accessed 17 August 2022.
DHAC (Department of Health and Aged Care) (2022) COVID-19 outbreaks in Australian residential aged care facilities: national snapshot 29 July 2022, DHAC, Australian Government, accessed 17 August 2022.
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