Fewer deaths among Australians with dementia during first 10 months of COVID-19 pandemic

The age-standardised death rate of Australians with dementia fell during the first 10 months of 2020, probably as a result of measures designed to prevent COVID-19 infections also limiting the spread of other infectious respiratory diseases, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Dementia deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, uses provisional mortality data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to examine deaths among people who had dementia recorded on their death certificates between January and October 2020.

It shows that 257 (30%) of the 858 people who died due to COVID-19 in the first 10 months of 2020 had dementia.

‘Older people living with dementia are particularly vulnerable during infectious disease outbreaks. Over the past year, Australia has introduced a range of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 and treat those affected,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr. Fleur de Crespigny.

‘The death rate for people with dementia was slightly lower over the first 10 months of 2020 compared to the average rate over the same months during 2015–19 (58 and 63 deaths per 100,000 population, respectively). Lower rates of death were particularly apparent during the winter months, when there is usually a seasonal peak in deaths of people with dementia.’

For people with dementia*, the number of deaths due to influenza or pneumonia fell during the first 10 months of the pandemic (13 people in 2020 compared to an average of 187 people over 2015–2019).

‘These results suggest that the measures in place to control the virus indirectly reduced dementia mortality rates in Australia during the first 10 months of 2020, and contrasts with the experience of other developed countries like the United Kingdom where mortality among people with dementia (even when not due to COVID-19) rose during the pandemic,’ Dr. de Crespigny said.

/Public Release. View in full here.