A closer look at deaths in Australia in 2021

What were people dying of?

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Australia is an important control group because they had minimal covid prior to Omicron. Therefore the effects of the vaccine alone on the population can be deduced by what happened there in 2021.

There are two key points to note. Firstly, there was a lack of respiratory deaths in 2020, 2021 and even 2022. Any analysis of excess mortality needs to account for that. Secondly, many of the excess deaths were not included in the major cateogories of death.

Total deaths

Total mortality was lower in 2020 and higher in 2021 than expected levels (see figure 1). Figure 2 shows the same data with an adjusted y-axis to show that these differences were not insignificant. For 2021, there were 4,145 excess deaths in 2021 whereas there were only 1,224 deaths attributed to covid.

Figure 1: Total Deaths
Figure 2: Total deaths but with y-axis starting from 100,000

Respiratory Causes of Death

In 2020, deaths from respiratory causes plummeted. This is likely to be because of the disappearance of influenza from 2020. In 2021, the same was true. Clearly, any assessment of excess from other causes needs to account for this deficit. The deficit was 3,078 in 2020; 2,273 in 2021 and 1.130 in 2022. The 4,415 total excess in 2021 is therefore likely to represent a true excess of 6,688 when the deficit in respiratory deaths is taken into account which would be a 4.5% increase in all deaths and 3.7% excess in non-covid deaths.

Figure 3: Australian deaths from respiratory diseases

Uncategorised deaths

As always with such datasets the data of interest is not apparent at first glance. After removing the major categories of cancer, circulatory, respiratory and dementia deaths, the uncategorised non-covid deaths show a significant increase above expected levels. There were 2,841 such excess deaths in 2021 and 6,238 in 2022. It would be interesting to know how many of these were sudden unexpected deaths. In England and Wales, such deaths are categorised as “symptoms, signs and ill defined conditions” and accounted for the majority of non-covid excess deaths from March 2020 to June 2022. 

Figure 4: Causes of non-covid death outisde of the major categories of cancer, circulatory, respiratory and dementia.

Figure 5: Excess deaths by cause up to 2021

Figure 5 shows that in 2021, the 1,224 deaths attributed to covid were far fewer than the deficit in respiratory deaths from other causes. In the meantime, circulatory deaths and “other” deaths were substantially higher amounting to a combined excess of 4,776. 

Figure 6: Excess deaths by cause up to 2022

In 2022, deaths attributed to covid reached 9,735 while these circulatory and “other” deaths escalated further accounting for 10,403 deaths. Together there were four  excess circulatory and other non-covid causes of death for every death attributed to covid in 2021 whereas in 2022 they were of equal magnitude. Anyone wanting to dismiss these deaths as under-diagnosed covid needs to explain first why diagnosis failed and secondly why this ratio was so dramatically different in 2021 to 2022.

Major causes of death

The 2015-2019 trendline provides a very accurate prediction for deaths from cancer (figure 3) and deaths from dementia (figure 4) indicating that it is a reasonable method to use for assuming a baseline.

Figure 7: Australian cancer deaths
Figure 8: Australian dementia deaths

Ischaemic heart disease deaths were in excess of expected levels with 876 extra deaths. (Remember there were only 1,224 deaths attributed to covid).

Figure 9: Australian deaths from ischaemic heart disease

Similarly deaths from other cardiac conditions were also in excess with 583 extra deaths in 2021.

Figure 10: Deaths from othe cardiac conditions

Unlike other causes of deaths, deaths from strokes showed a declining trend until 2021. That year there was an excess of 476 deaths.

Figure 11: Deaths from strokes 

Deaths in Australia exceeded expected levels from 2021, well in excess of what could be attributed to covid. The excess was part circulatory disease but many such deaths did not fall into the main cateogries of deaths.

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