COVID-19 Mortality in Australia, Deaths registered to 31 January 2022

COVID-19 deaths that occurred by 31 January 2022 that have been registered and received by the ABS

Released
15/02/2022

Key Statistics

  • 2,639 deaths where people died with or from COVID-19 that occurred by 31 January 2022 have been registered and received by the ABS. The ABS expects to receive further registrations for this period from the jurisdictional Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
  • The majority (2,556 deaths) of these 2,639 deaths were due directly to COVID-19. 
  • There were a further 83 people who died of other causes (e.g. cancer) but were COVID-19 positive at the time of death.  
  • Chronic cardiac conditions were the most common pre-existing chronic condition for those who had COVID-19 certified as the underlying cause of death.

The number of deaths published in this report are provisional and will increase as additional registrations are received by the ABS. 

Deaths due to COVID-19 are coded to ICD-10 codes U07.1 and U07.2 using rules in accordance with the most current advice from the World Health Organization. 

Deaths in this article on COVID-19 occur up to 31 January 2022. 

Deaths in this article are sourced from the civil registration system. The data is not directly comparable with data sourced from health surveillance systems. 

Deaths due to COVID-19 in Australia

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (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.

There are 2,639 death registrations that have been received by the ABS where an individual is certified as having died from or with COVID-19 between the start of the pandemic and 31 January 2022. Approximately 1% of the 273,901 death registrations received by the ABS and certified by a doctor in Australia during the pandemic period are of people who have died with or from COVID-19. This number of deaths is a preliminary figure and represents only deaths where the death registration process through the jurisdictional Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages (the civil registration system) has been completed. The number of deaths of people who have died with or from COVID-19 during this time period will increase as additional registrations are received by the ABS.

Data published by the ABS is collected through the civil registration system and is not directly comparable with that released from disease surveillance systems which are designed to release information rapidly on both infections and mortality. 

Information about mortality sourced from the registration-based system takes longer to receive than information reported through the surveillance system, but it is more comprehensive and can provide important additional insights into deaths from COVID-19. Cause of death information is sourced from the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD), which enables identification of the underlying cause of death and other associated causes. These data sources also provide demographic information about the decedent (e.g. age, sex and country of birth).

Certification of COVID-19 on the MCCD in Australia

There were 2,704 deaths which occurred and were registered by 31 January 2022 and had COVID-19 written as a term on the death certificate. Of these 2,704 deaths, 2,556 were deaths due to COVID-19, including:

  • 2,519 which were directly due to acute COVID-19 infection with the virus being laboratory confirmed. 
  • 20 deaths that were due to long term effects of COVID-19 (e.g. long COVID-19). 
  • 17 deaths that were certified as being due to suspected COVID-19 with the virus not confirmed in a laboratory at the time of certification.

These 2,556 deaths are considered to be "due to" COVID-19 and are included in underlying cause mortality tabulations in this report.

Other deaths that had COVID-19 as a term on the death certificate included:

  • 83 deaths which were COVID-19 related. This is where the person died with COVID-19 (confirmed or suspected) but it was not the underlying cause of death.
  • 50 deaths which had a negative COVID-19 result recorded on the death certificate. When a negative COVID-19 test result is recorded on a death certificate an ICD-10 code of ‘Z03.8 Examination and observation for other specified reasons’ is assigned to capture the information communicated by the doctor. These deaths are not included in COVID-19 mortality reporting. 
  • 13 deaths which occurred in people who had COVID-19 but recovered. These mentions of COVID-19 on the death certificate are captured with an ICD-10 code of “U08.9 Personal history of COVID-19”. These deaths are not included in COVID-19 mortality reporting. 

 

Coding of COVID-19 from the MCCD

Australian cause of death data is coded to the International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision which is governed by the WHO. Case definitions, certification guidelines and coding rules have been implemented for international use.

A death directly due to COVID-19 is defined by the WHO as a death resulting from a clinically compatible illness, in a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case, unless there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be related to COVID disease (e.g. trauma). There should be no period of complete recovery from COVID-19 between illness and death.

In response to the emergence of COVID-19 the WHO issued new emergency codes to be used when coding causes of death for statistical purposes.

  • U07.1 COVID-19 virus identified

This code is used when COVID-19 is confirmed by laboratory testing.

  • U07.2 COVID-19 virus not identified

This code is used for suspected or clinical diagnoses of COVID-19 where testing is not completed or inconclusive.

  • U08 Personal history of COVID-19

This code is used when a person has recovered from COVID-19 and no long term effects have been certified as contributing to an individual’s death. These deaths are not included in COVID-19 mortality tabulations.

  • U09 Post COVID-19 condition

This code is used to link long term conditions including chronic lung conditions that are the result of the virus. These deaths are included in COVID-19 mortality tabulations.

  • U10 Multisystem inflammatory syndrome associated with COVID-19

This code is used to identify people who have died from COVID-19 where the virus has led to a multi-inflammatory response syndrome. There have been no deaths due to this disorder in Australia.

A further code ‘Z03.8 Examination for observation and other specified reasons’ can be used to record a negative test result in order to capture this information on the death certificate. These deaths are not tabulated as being due to COVID-19.

The international rules and guidance for selecting the underlying cause of death for statistical tabulation apply when COVID-19 is reported on a death certificate. COVID-19 is not considered as due to, or as an obvious consequence of, other diseases and conditions. These rules are also applied to cause of death coding for Influenza and selected other infectious diseases. Further, there is no provision in the classification to link COVID-19 to other causes or modify its coding in any way.

Almost all deaths due to COVID-19 in Australia have laboratory confirmation of the virus. Of the 2,556 registered COVID-19 deaths occurring by 31 January 2022, 2,539 (99.3%) were coded to U07.1, (laboratory confirmed) COVID-19, virus identified. There were 17 (0.7%) deaths where the doctor certified that it was a suspected case of COVID-19 with no laboratory confirmation recorded at the time the MCCD was completed.

Deaths due to COVID-19: Year and month of occurrence

The table below shows the number of registered deaths due to COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic by month of occurrence.  

  • The number of deaths occurring in November and December 2021 and January 2022 is not reflective of the true total and will increase as additional death registrations are received by the ABS. Other time periods may also change if the death registration process has been delayed. 
  • Cumulatively, the highest number of deaths occurred during the Delta and Omicron waves. This differs across jurisdictions. 
Deaths due to COVID-19 by year and month of occurrence (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)
Year of death occurrenceJanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecemberTotal
20200023781231454731461681905
202121120013902994142351721,229
2022422nanananananananananana422

a. This table only includes information on registered deaths due to COVID-19. Numbers of deaths will differ to disease surveillance systems.

b. Information on deaths due to COVID-19 include deaths that occurred and were registered by 31 January 2022. 

c. All deaths due to COVID-19 in this report have been coded to ICD-10 code U07.1 COVID-19, virus identified or U07.2, virus not identified as the underlying cause of death.

d. This data is provisional and will change as additional data is received.

e. Refer to methodology for more information regarding the data in this graph.

Deaths due to COVID-19: Age and sex

  • Males had a higher number of registered deaths (1,428) due to COVID-19 than females (1,128 deaths).

  • The highest number of COVID-19 deaths occurred among those aged 80-89 years (934). This was true for both males and females.

  • Males aged under 80 years had a higher number of deaths than females (653 compared with 356).

  • The median age for those who died from COVID-19 was 83.7 years (81.2 years for males, 86.0 years for females).

  1. This graph only includes information on registered deaths due to COVID-19. Numbers of deaths will differ to disease surveillance systems.
  2. Information on deaths due to COVID-19 include all deaths due to the disease that occurred and were registered by 31 January 2022.
  3. Deaths due to COVID-19 in this report have an underlying cause of either ICD-10 code U07.1 COVID-19, virus identified or U07.2 COVID-19, virus not identified.
  4. This data is considered to be provisional and subject to change as additional data is received.
  5. Refer to methodology for more information regarding the data in this graph.

Deaths due to COVID-19: State of registration

As of 31 January 2022, the majority of registered deaths due to COVID-19 had occurred in Victoria (1,557). Additional deaths due to COVID-19 for this time period are expected to be received in coming months for most jurisdictions as death registrations are finalised. 

Number and proportion of COVID-19 deaths by state of registration (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)
COVID-19 deaths (no.)Proportion of total COVID-19 deaths (%)
NSW86433.8
Vic1,55760.9
Qld692.7
SA220.9
WA100.4
Tas180.7
NT0na
ACT160.6
Aus2,556100.0
  1. This table only includes information on registered deaths due to COVID-19. Numbers of deaths will differ to disease surveillance systems.
  2. Information on deaths due to COVID-19 include deaths that occurred and were registered by 31 January 2022. 
  3. All deaths due to COVID-19 in this report have been coded to ICD-10 code U07.1 COVID-19, virus identified or U07.2, virus not identified as the underlying cause of death.
  4. This data is provisional and will change as additional data is received.
  5. Refer to methodology for more information regarding the data in this graph.

Deaths due to COVID-19: Associated causes of death

COVID-19 was the underlying cause of death for 2,556 registered deaths that have been received by the ABS occurring up to 31 January 2022. The WHO defines the underlying cause of death as the disease or condition that initiated the train of morbid events leading to death. Diseases and conditions reported on the MCCD that are not the underlying cause of death are referred to as associated causes. Associated causes can be either:

  • Conditions listed in the causal sequence (the chain of events leading to death); or
  • Pre-existing chronic conditions, often listed in Part II of the MCCD as ‘other conditions relevant to the death’.

Examining conditions in the causal sequence can provide insights into how a disease progresses and leads to death. Examining pre-existing chronic conditions provides an understanding of risk factors that might contribute to death from a particular disease. Both can inform health prevention and intervention policies.

Most deaths due to COVID-19 have other conditions listed on the death certificate (91.4%). The table below shows that just under half of all certificates had both a causal sequence and pre-existing conditions listed on the certificate.

On average, deaths due to COVID-19 had 2.7 other diseases and conditions certified alongside the virus. 

Number of deaths due to COVID-19 that had associated conditions (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)
Reported with:No. of deathsPercent (%)
Reported alone on certificate2208.6
Reported with causal sequence of events only56021.9
Reported with pre-existing chronic conditions only60423.6
Reported with causal sequence of events and pre-existing chronic conditions1,17245.9
  1. This table only includes information on registered deaths due to COVID-19. Numbers of deaths will differ to disease surveillance systems.
  2. Information on deaths due to COVID-19 include deaths that occurred and were registered by 31 January 2022.
  3. Deaths due to COVID-19 in this report have an underlying cause of either ICD-10 code U07.1 COVID-19, virus identified or U07.2 COVID-19, virus not identified.
  4. This data is provisional and will change as additional data is received.
  5. Refer to methodology for more information regarding the data in this graph.

Deaths due to COVID-19: Associated causes, conditions in the causal sequence

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that weakens the immune system causing inflammation. This commonly leads to poor respiratory outcomes such as viral pneumonia and secondary infection. Other manifestations such as acute kidney injury and cardiac complications have also been reported but these are less common.

Disease progressions was described in a causal sequence by the certifier in 1,732 (67.8%) of the 2,556 deaths due to COVID-19 outlined in this report. Among these 1,732 deaths:

  • Acute respiratory diseases were the most commonly certified diseases listed as a consequence of COVID-19.
  • Pneumonia was present as a consequence of COVID-19 in over two-thirds of deaths where a causal sequence was certified by a doctor.
  • Other acute outcomes including infections (e.g. sepsis) and renal complications were certified in 10.6% and 9.5% of deaths respectively.
  1. This graph only includes information on registered deaths due to COVID-19. Numbers of deaths will differ to disease surveillance systems.
  2. Information on deaths due to COVID-19 include deaths that occurred and were registered by 31 January 2022. 
  3. Deaths due to COVID-19 in this report have an underlying cause of either ICD-10 code U07.1 COVID-19, virus identified or U07.2 COVID-19, virus not identified.
  4. This data is provisional and will change as additional data is received.
  5. Refer to methodology for more information regarding the data in this graph.

Deaths due to COVID-19: Associated causes, pre-existing chronic conditions

People with pre-existing chronic conditions have greater risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19. While pre-existing chronic conditions do not cause COVID-19, they increase the risk of COVID-19 complications and therefore increase the risk of death.

Pre-existing chronic conditions were reported on death certificates for 1,776 (69.5%) of the 2,556 deaths due to COVID-19 deaths outlined in this report. Of these 1,776 deaths:

  • Chronic cardiac conditions including coronary atherosclerosis, cardiomyopathies and atrial fibrillation were the most commonly certified co-morbidities, present in 35.8% of the 1,776 deaths.
  • Dementia including Alzheimer's disease was certified in over 30% of deaths due to COVID-19.
  • Diabetes, a condition that weakens the immune system was certified as a pre-existing condition in 20.6% of deaths with a chronic condition mentioned.
  • Cancer was a pre-existing condition in 14.1% of the 1,776 deaths. Blood and lymph cancers (e.g. leukaemia) were the most commonly certified cancer type among those deaths. 
  • The type of comorbidities most commonly present in Australian deaths due to COVID-19 are consistent with those reported internationally.
  1. This graph only includes information on registered deaths due to COVID-19. Numbers of deaths will differ to disease surveillance systems.
  2. Information on deaths due to COVID-19 include deaths that occurred and were registered by 31 January 2022. 
  3. All deaths due to COVID-19 in this report have been coded to ICD-10 code U07.1 COVID-19, virus identified or U07.2, virus not identified as the underlying cause of death.
  4. This data is provisional and will change as additional data is received.
  5. Refer to methodology for more information regarding the data in this graph.

Death due to COVID-19: Country of birth

  • Those who died of COVID-19 with a country of birth overseas, had an age-standardised death rate close to three times that of people who were born in Australia (6.8 deaths per 100,000 people versus 2.3 deaths).
  • Those with a country of birth in the Middle East had the highest age-standardised death rate at 29.3 deaths per 100,000 people.
  • Those with a country of birth in the United Kingdom and Ireland had the lowest age-standardised death rate at 2.1 per 100,000 people.
  • Those born in the Eastern European region had the highest median age at death at 91.8 years. Those born in the Oceania and Antarctic region (excluding Australia) had the lowest median age at death at 70.7 years. 

Country of birth of those who have died from COVID-19 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)

Country of birth  No. of deathsAge-standardised death rateMedian age at death (years)
Australia9072.384.3
Overseas born1,6406.883.0
 Oceania and Antarctica1418.270.7
 North-West Europe2202.385.5
  United Kingdom and Ireland1582.185.6
  Other North-West Europe623.185.0
 Southern and Eastern Europe73211.185.8
  Southern Europe2448.386.6
  South Eastern Europe41014.584.1
  Eastern Europe788.291.8
 North Africa and the Middle East28824.778.7
  North Africa3913.479.5
  Middle East24929.378.6
 South-East Asia944.874.0
 North-East Asia452.984.3
 Southern and Central Asia584.978.0
 Americas354.977.2
 Sub-Saharan Africa273.471.5
  1. This table only includes information on registered deaths due to COVID-19. Numbers of deaths will differ to disease surveillance systems.
  2. Information on deaths due to COVID-19 include all deaths due to the disease that occurred and were registered by 31 January 2022. 
  3. Deaths due to COVID-19 in this report have an underlying cause of either ICD-10 code U07.1 COVID-19, virus identified or U07.2 COVID-19, virus not identified.
  4. This data is provisional and will change as additional data is received.
  5. Refer to methodology for more information regarding the data in this graph.
  6. The country of birth of the deceased is coded to and presented on the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC). 

Deaths due to COVID-19: socio-economic status (SEIFA)

Socio-economic indexes rank areas in Australia according to relative socio-economic advantage and disadvantage.

  • The number of people who died due to COVID-19 was over 3 times higher in those in quintile 1 (most disadvantaged) than those in quintile 5 (least disadvantaged). This was true for both males and females.
  • Proportions and numbers of COVID-19 mortality were similar for both males and females across each quintile.
  • People living in the least disadvantaged areas (quintile 5) had the lowest numbers of deaths due to COVID-19.
SEIFA (IRSD) quintile of those who died by COVID-19 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)
SEIFA QuintileMalesPercent (%) of male deaths due to COVID-19FemalesPercent (%) of female deaths due to COVID-19
1 (lowest)51035.742938.0
233023.124121.4
324216.919116.9
420214.117515.5
5 (highest)1369.5928.2
  1. This table only includes information on registered deaths due to COVID-19. Numbers of deaths will differ to disease surveillance systems.
  2. Information on deaths due to COVID-19 include all deaths due to the disease that occurred and were registered by 31 January 2022. 
  3. Deaths due to COVID-19 in this report have an underlying cause of either ICD-10 code U07.1 COVID-19, virus identified or U07.2 COVID-19, virus not identified.
  4. This data is provisional and will change as additional data is received.
  5. Refer to methodology for more information regarding the data in this graph.
  6. Data for SEIFA (IRSD) quintiles have been calculated using a meshblock to SEIFA (IRSD) correspondence. 

COVID-19 related-deaths (dying with COVID-19)

For death registrations received by the ABS up to 31 January 2022 there were 83 people who died with COVID-19 rather than directly from the virus itself. In this article, these deaths are referred to as COVID-19 related deaths.

A COVID-19 related death is one where there is a disease or injury pathway to death that is not directly caused by the virus. For example, a person may have late stage cancer that has metastasised extensively causing organ damage leading to death. This person may also have contracted COVID-19. While the virus may have negatively impacted health in an immuno-compromised person, the virus itself did not cause the terminal event leading to death (e.g. organ failure caused by metastases). In this example, the underlying cause of death would be recorded as cancer and COVID-19 would be considered an associated cause of death. 

The majority of recorded COVID-19 related-deaths (74 deaths, 89.2%) occurred during the Delta and Omicron waves. There were 9 COVID-19 related deaths (11.8%) recorded during wave 1 and 2 of the pandemic in Australia. The number of COVID-19 related-deaths is expected to increase as additional registrations are received by the ABS. 

Of the 83 people who died with COVID-19, cancer was the most common underlying cause of death. Lung cancer was the most common primary site of cancer. Circulatory system diseases, encompassing chronic cardiac conditions was the second most common underlying cause of death in COVID-19 related deaths. 

Most common underlying cause in COVID-19 related-deaths (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)
Underlying cause of deathNo. of deathsProportion (%)
Cancer3238.6
Circulatory system diseases1720.5
Dementia including Alzheimers1012.0
Falls89.6
Other conditions1619.3
Total deaths83100

a. This table includes information on registered deaths. Numbers of deaths will differ to disease surveillance systems.

b. Information on deaths include deaths that occurred and were registered by 31 January 2022. 

c. COVID-19 related-deaths have an associated cause of either ICD-10 code U07.1 COVID-19, virus identified or U07.2 COVID-19, virus not identified.

d. This data is provisional and will change as additional data is received.

e. Refer to methodology for more information regarding the data in this table.

Post-release updates

14/4/2022 - The title of this article has been changed from 'COVID-19 Mortality in Australia' to 'COVID-19 Mortality in Australia, Deaths registered to 31 January 2022'.

18/02/2022 - Further clarifying text was added to key statistics.