Key statistics

  • COVID-19 was the 38th leading cause of death (898 deaths).
  • In 2020 there was a decrease in mortality in Australia.
  • The five leading causes decreased, with a significant reduction in respiratory diseases.
  • Rates from suicide, drug overdoses and car crashes decreased.
  • Alcohol-induced death rates increased by 8.3%.

2020: Deaths during the first year of the pandemic

The unprecedented events of 2020 has raised questions about their impact on the health of the Australian population. In January many regions in Australia were in the midst of a severe bushfire season. At this time there was also growing concern globally about COVID-19, a respiratory infection caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. By 11 March the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

The emergence of COVID-19 and its potential direct and indirect health effects made tracking of mortality more important than ever. Civil registration based mortality data provided important insights into deaths from COVID-19 and deaths from other causes, highlighting the broader impacts of the pandemic and related measures on population health and health service delivery.

The ABS has published provisional mortality counts for doctor-certified deaths during the pandemic period. These data provide an early indicator of changes in patterns of mortality, but do not include information on deaths that were coroner referred including accidents, assaults and suicides.

This report provides snapshots for selected causes of death for 2020 for both doctor and coroner certified deaths. Further information on causes of death in 2020 can be found in accompanying articles and the datacubes available from the data downloads section of this publication.

2020: COVID-19 mortality

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection caused by a new coronavirus. On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. Information relating to COVID-19 mortality for both 2020 and 2021 is also published in the Provisional Mortality Statistics publication.

For the 898 people who died from COVID-19 in 2020:

  • COVID-19 was the 38th leading cause of death.
  • Their median age at death was 86 years.
  • Just over half were female (460 female deaths, 438 male deaths).
  • People who died from the virus under the age of 70 were more likely to be male.
  • Dementia was the most common pre-existing condition (275 deaths).
  • Chronic cardiac conditions, hypertension and diabetes were also commonly reported comorbidities.
  • The majority of deaths occurred in people with a usual residence of Victoria (800 deaths).

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