Cancer, Dementia Deaths Up in Australia Following Pandemic Years

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at
September 23, 2022 Updated: September 28, 2022

Australia in 2022 has so far seen an increase in deaths from cancer, dementia, and diabetes.

The findings from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) come after elective surgeries were suspended during the pandemic years over concerns hospitals could not cope with the volume of extra patients.

The ABS found 75,593 deaths occurred since the start of this year to May 31. This is 10,757 or around 16.6 percent higher than the historical average recorded from 2015 to 2019. The ABS attributed 4,465 deaths to COVID-19.

However, there was also an increase in the number of deaths from January to May due to dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease—deaths increased from the historical average of 5,611 to 6,763, representing a 20.5 percent rise.

Deaths attributed to cancer rose from the historical average of 19,514 to 20,686, which is an increase of 6.0 percent.

Deaths attributed to diabetes increased from 1,806 to 2,168, representing a 20 percent increase.

Meanwhile, respiratory diseases like pneumonia and influenza saw a drop over the same period.

COVID-19 Took Focus Away From Other Conditions: Psychiatrist

Psychiatrist Tanveer Ahmed says developed countries will see more and more deaths in the above-mentioned categories due to the ageing population and low birth rate.

“Dementia and cancer are the types of deaths that come from an ageing population,” he told The Epoch Times.

He said that the decision to suspend elective surgeries during the pandemic years could have affected the latest statistics.

“There is some evidence internationally that some people—who should have gone for a follow-up, a cancer screening and treatment, or done further tests—were less likely to do that,” he said.

“A lot of things were shut down here. So I think there’s a real risk with some of the cancer deaths in particular [because that requires regular check-ups],” he said, but noted even some dementia patients may not have been treated as effectively for ailments like infection.

“I think as a general rule, throughout the pandemic, people weren’t as keen to go to the doctor for things that didn’t feel like COVID-19,” he said.

During the pandemic, state governments delayed elective surgeries to give room to already-strained public hospitals to deal with the pandemic.

This year, the Victorian and New South Wales governments have pledged increased funding to “catch-up” on procedures.

In April, Victoria launched the “COVID Catch-Up Plan” to spend $1.5 billion ($1.12 billion) to increase the number of elective surgeries per year across the state.

“We know that COVID, twice, has hit elective surgeries hard,” Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters on April 3. “This plan will see record numbers of Victorians get the surgeries they need while making sure our frontline workforce is supported.”