An indication that the virus is often the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’.
New mortality data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has shown 73% of Australians who died with COVID-19 had at least one other co-morbidity, mainly dementia (41%), chronic cardiac conditions (32%), diabetes (17%) and hypertension (16%). Some had multiple chronic conditions.
In total, of the 682 COVID-19 deaths recorded to the end of August, 496 had pre-existing chronic conditions.
Complications caused by COVID also contributed to the deaths, accounting for 366 deaths.
These included pneumonia (reported on 54% of death certificates), respiratory failure (16%), other infections (13%) and cardiac complications (10%).
The average age of death from COVID-19 in Australia currently sits at 85 – higher than the average life expectancy.
Overall deaths fall thanks to lockdown measures
Despite this, total deaths from all causes have fallen across the country since May – including from flu – as people maintained social distancing and better hygiene standards and stayed home when sick.
During the winter peak between 2 June and 28 July, 24,329 deaths were recorded, compared with an average of 26,229 over the last five years.
Australian National University infectious diseases physician Peter Collignon told the Fin Review that COVID-19 was very different to the Spanish flu 100 years ago when most deaths were in 20-to-30-year-old males.
“COVID-19 is a much worse virus to get than seasonal influenza but it mainly kills people who are in their 80s and 90s and have pre-existing illnesses so it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” he said.
“We do need restrictions that limit the spread but this is a long-term virus and the restrictions need to be proportionate to the risk for people.”