COVID-19: Australian Bureau of Statistics Finds An Excess Death Rate Of 17 Percent For January 1 to August 31 2022


The Australian Bureau of Statistics last month released the latest mortality data that alarmingly showed that there had been 128,797 deaths from January 1 to August 31, which was 17 per cent higher than the historical average.

Key statistics

  • In 2022, there were 128,797 deaths that occurred by 31 August and were registered by 31 October, which is 18,671 (17.0%) more than the historical average.
  • In August there were 17,419 deaths, 1,926 (12.4%) above the historical average.
  • There were 657 (61.5%) fewer deaths due to COVID-19 in September than August (see article).

Baseline comparisons

Throughout this report, counts of deaths are compared to an average number of deaths for previous years. In this report, data for 2021 is compared to an average number of deaths recorded over the 5 years from 2015-2019 as was the case in previous publications. Data for 2022 is compared to a baseline comprising the years 2017-2019 and 2021.

2020 is not included in the baseline for 2022 data because it included periods where numbers of deaths were significantly lower than expected.  Counts of deaths for 2015-2021 are included in the baseline datacubes of the data downloads section of this report. 

These average or baseline counts serve as a proxy for the expected number of deaths, so comparisons against baseline counts can provide an indication of whether mortality is higher or lower than expected in a given year.

The minimum and maximum counts are also included to provide an indication of the range of previous counts. Minimums and maximums for any given week can be from any of the years included in the baseline.

While this publication can provide an indication of where counts of deaths are above or below expectations, it does not provide official estimates of excess mortality. Using the number of deaths from the previous years as the predictor for the expected number of deaths does not take into account changes in population size and age-structures of that population, as well as expected improvements in mortality rates over time. Age-standardised death rates can be accessed via the data downloads tab in this publication. 

COVID-19 mortality

The ABS publishes two regular reports that provide preliminary information on mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic, Provisional Mortality Statistics and COVID-19 Deaths in Australia articles. These reports provide information on different time periods and serve different purposes.

Provisional Mortality Statistics focus on monitoring patterns of mortality (by all-causes and specified leading causes of death) and highlight any changes potentially associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Data must be sufficiently complete to detect such changes, and as such these reports are only released once the majority of deaths that occurred in a particular period have been registered and reported.   

COVID-19 Mortality in Australia articles focus on all COVID-19 deaths registered and reported up until a specified time. These articles include important information about COVID-19 deaths, including demographic details, comorbidities and consequences of the disease. While it is recognised data will be incomplete, it can still indicate emerging trends or changes among these deaths.

The most recent article on COVID-19 mortality covering deaths that occurred and were registered up until 31 October 2022 can be accessed through the articles link on this page. 

On 16 November an article examining COVID-19 mortality was published. This article included deaths that were registered up until 30 September 2022 and explored how the number and rate of deaths for different population groups varied over the course of the pandemic.

Australian deaths by week

All-cause deaths

Tracking the number of deaths against historical averages for similar time periods provides an initial indication of when a change in the pattern of mortality may occur. This is of particular relevance because of the many potential public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Note: There is a recent change in the way this graph is presented. Previously, the number of COVID-19 infections were reported alongside deaths. With changes in the way infections are detected (i.e. the use of both Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests) and reported the graph was no longer considered robust for measuring the pattern of mortality against infection rates. Instead, the number of overall deaths and the number of overall deaths without COVID-19 as an underlying cause of death are presented. This provides an indication of how COVID-19 has contributed to the pattern of mortality over time. 

For all deaths:

  • In 2022, there were 128,797 deaths that occurred by 31 August and were registered by 31 October. This is 18,671 deaths (17.0%) more than the baseline average.
  • In August there were 17,419 deaths, 1,926 (12.4%) above the historical average. 
  • 15,445 of the deaths occurring in August 2022 were doctor certified and 1,974 were coroner referred.
  • The age-standardised death rate (SDR) for August 2022 was 49.2 deaths per 100,000 people. This was higher than the baseline average (47.7). 

Deaths are presented by counts only. Counts of death do not account for changes in population. See data downloads for weekly and monthly age-standardised death rate calculations. 

Mortality by selected causes of death

Cause-specific mortality

The following analysis is based only on doctor certified deaths (i.e. coroner referred deaths are not included). Any changes in patterns of coroner referral could affect counts of doctor certified deaths. Some conditions have higher coroner referral rates (ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular diseases and to a lesser extent, respiratory diseases and diabetes) so counts for those conditions would be more likely to be affected by such changes.


  • Between January and August 2022 there have been 7,727 deaths due to COVID-19 that were certified by a doctor. 1,061 of these deaths occurred in August.
  • As the pandemic has progressed the number of people dying with COVID-19 has increased. In August 415 people died with COVID-19 whose underlying cause of death was a disease other than COVID-19.

Other causes of death

  • Deaths due to dementia including Alzheimer’s disease were 12.5% above the baseline average in August, and 18.9% above the baseline average for the year to August. This equated to an age-standardised death rate of 4.2 per 100,000 people, compared to a baseline average rate of 4.0.
  • Deaths due to diabetes were 11.9% above average in August, and were 20.8% higher than the baseline average for the year to August. The age-standardised death rate for August was 1.4 per 100,000 people, compared to a baseline average rate of 1.3.
  • While the number of deaths due to cancer was above the baseline average in August, the age standardised rate of 12.7 per 100,000 people was below the baseline average rate of 13.0.
  • Deaths due to cerebrovascular disease were 9.2% lower when compared to the average count in August. 
  • There were 247 deaths due to influenza and pneumonia in August, 44.0% below the baseline average. Of these deaths, 14 were due to influenza (compared to a baseline average of 152) and 233 were due to pneumonia (compared to a baseline average of 289).
  • There have been 268 doctor certified deaths due to influenza between January and August 2022, which is 21.9% below the baseline average.
  • Overall deaths due to respiratory diseases remain low in August at 13.3% below average. 



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