Social distancing leads to fewer winter deaths

16 November 2020
| By Laura Dew |
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The social distancing measures enforced by COVID-19 contributed to fewer deaths this winter as Australia avoided the usual ‘hump’ of deaths in June and July.

Data from the Actuaries Institute found deaths in those months were “significantly lower” than had been predicted and there were very low deaths from respiratory causes.

“We hypothesise that respiratory diseases are not circulating through the community as they have done in previous winters because of the continuation of social distancing measures throughout Australia and perhaps also because of the closed international borders,” the institute said.

However, deaths rose in the last week of July as COVID-19 cases rose in Victoria as part of a second wave. There were also more deaths from cases such as dementia and diabetes, and males over 75 and females over 85 were most affected.

“We surmise that the increase in deaths in the last week of July may be connected to difficulties in providing adequate care in aged care homes in Victoria at the time,” the institute said.

“Infection rates by age across Australia show that those over 90 in Victoria are most likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19.”

It also found there had been “no increase in suicides” during the lockdown period in Victoria but that it would continue to watch this as suicide reflected “cumulative effects of stressors over time” which were expected to continue for some time.

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