Jul 07, 2022

30% of all Australian COVID deaths are aged care residents

30% of all Australian COVID deaths are aged care residents

A newly released report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has revealed that over the entire pandemic, 30% of all COVID-19 related deaths have occurred in residential aged care.

The report also showed deaths in aged care are beginning to rise again in 2022.

This data, which is a biennial snapshot of Australia on different health topics, found that COVID-19 had a drastic effect on older Australians’ health and wellbeing.

From the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, aged care facilities were identified as a priority high-risk setting for COVID-19.

Over the last two years, the Australian aged care sector has seen 34,365 cases of COVID among aged care residents, as well as 4,096 COVID outbreaks in 2,306 aged care facilities.

In the first year of the pandemic, aged care residents accounted for 75% of all COVID related deaths (909).

In 2021, the second year of the pandemic, the percentage of COVID related deaths in aged care subsided to 17% (1,330).

Now, in 2022, the number of deaths in aged care is on the rise, with the first four months of the year showing aged care residents made up 26% (7,163) of COVID related deaths in the country. 

The AIHW explained that while there are more COVID related deaths in aged care this year, it is a lesser percentage compared to the overall mortality rate in Australia as the virus spreads throughout the community.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, said that the report still has some positives, including data showing people are living longer and healthier lives, however, it does highlight key health challenges vulnerable people have faced over the last two years.

“The Albanese government has the policy agenda to tackle the health challenges and underlying social determinants as highlighted in the AIHW report,” said Mr Butler.

“We are tackling inequities across our community that ultimately affect our health by addressing low wages.

“We will build a stronger, fairer and more sustainable Australia for all Australians.

He added that this report is a timely reminder that people should be seeking their third or fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. 

Other interesting data from the report over the last two years includes:

  • While aged care residents are the highest demographic of three or more vaccine doses in the country, at 97%, a winter booster vaccine is still recommended for people aged 50 and older
  • People aged 85 and over who died while living in aged care used fewer hospitals,  more prescription medication, and had 27% lower average health service costs compared to people who died at the same age but lived in the community
  • 432,000 people died after living their last year of life in residential aged care and over two thirds (68%) were people aged 85 and over. In comparison, 706,000 people died while living in their community in the last year of their life and only 25% were people aged 85 and over
  • The leading causes of death in people aged 85 and over in aged care for their last year of life are dementia and coronary heart disease

To view the full report, head to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website.

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