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What do Australians die from? COVID-19 is the third-leading cause of death

The virus is now one of the top five leading causes of death in Australia, trumped only by heart disease and dementia.

For all of us, death is inevitable. But in 2022 more Australians died – and we have Covid to thank.

There were 190,939 deaths last year, almost 20,000 more than 2021.

“Deaths due to COVID-19 Covid were a significant contributor to the increase, causing just under 10,000 deaths and mentioned as a contributing factor on a further 2,782 death certificates,” data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics claims.

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The bulk of those deaths are attributed to the Omicron variant, which was first discovered in November 2021. “The Omicron variant was the dominant strain during 2022, with multiple waves across the year associated with the variant.”

In 2020, it was the 38th leading cause of death in Australia, and in 2021, it was the 33rd.

The pandemic also marked a change to our list of top five leading causes of death for the first time since 2006. Covid is now deemed deadlier than lung and bowel cancers, the ABS reports.

What’s more, “This is the first time in over 50 years that an infectious disease has been in the top five leading causes of death in Australia.”

That last time was back 1968 and 1970, when influenza and pneumonia were deemed as the fifth leading cause of death.

For those who died from Covid in 2022:

  • Their median age was 85.8 years
  • Over half were male
  • Pneumonia was present in 41.7 per cent of Covid deaths
  • Cardiac conditions were the most commonly reported pre-existing conditions in 33.0 per cent of Covid deaths
  • The most common underlying cause of death was dementia
  • NSW (3,608) and Victoria (2,956) had the highest number of deaths

Heart disease topped the list with 18,643 deaths, followed by dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease with 17,106.

These were trailed by Covid, and then Cerebrovascular disease with 9,829 deaths.

Cerebrovascular disease includes stroke, vertebral stenosis, carotid stenosis and intracranial stenosis, aneurysms, and vascular malformations.

Lung cancer came in fifth with 9,048 deaths, making it our deadliest cancer.

Read related topics:Coronavirus

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Bowel cancer: Kellie Finlayson’s terminal cancer battle is hell, but inspiring

The wife of AFL star Jeremy Finlayson was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer at age 25, after welcoming their first child.  

At 25, Kellie Finlayson was on a high. She’d just welcomed her first child, daughter Sophia, with her husband, Port Adelaide player, Jeremy Finlayson.

It was a time when she should have been enjoying the baby bubble and making special memories as a family of three. Instead, she was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer and forced to fight for her life.

„Long story short, because it is a very long story, I got diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer in November 2021, at three months postpartum, and within a week, that was upgraded to stage four,“ she explains during a recent episode of Healthy-ish, with further testing showing the cancer had spread beyond her lymph nodes.

„I had no idea what that meant, obviously, because unless you’ve had or live around anyone who has [cancer] you just don’t know much about it. To me it was just another stage of having cancer which is scary enough as it is.“

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Finlayson endured eight months of treatment, which included chemotherapy, and was given „watch and wait“ advice from her specialists.

At that point, „My surgeon was very happy with how far I’d come and was pretty optimistic about my life. So, I went on living it as much as I could.“

But all that changed in December 2022, a little over a year since her diagnosis.

„I thought I had Covid because I had a really tight chest and couldn’t breathe. I thought I was being melodramatic, which I probably put down to my husband (laughs) because when he had Covid he was a bit of a drama queen.“

A quick trip to the hospital to pick up some medication to help with her symptoms resulted in a nurse sending her for a precautionary CT scan. 

The tests came back showing a large blur in her chest cavity the size of a softball.

„We found out it was pneumonia masking a tumour, and when they went in to have a look in my lungs…they found one tiny little tumour which was also cancer.“

For most, a second cancer diagnosis is all consuming. From the diagnosis itself to treatment, and then the reality that the years might be cut short.

But for Finlayson, the disease isn’t the hardest pill to swallow.

„The hardest part has probably been the things that have been taken from me, not so much with the dealing of the disease,“ she tells host Felicity Harley.

„So, my fertility, my first year as a mum, my ability to support my husband in a career that’s quite stressful because I’ve had to put myself first. His stress has become less important, or less of a priority. Things that I thought my first year of motherhood would be like that they haven’t been, what I thought I’d be able to do post-children.“

On her social media platforms, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Adelaide-based mum is fighting fit. People even comment on her ability to get out and about between treatments. But it’s important to remember cancer looks different for everyone. At one point she weighed less than 45kg. „I was tiny and I was unwell. I was a ghost of myself.“

Today, Finlayson is living her life to the max.

„I believe that if I’m not living my life, what’s the point of still being alive,“ she says.

Right now, she says she’s „very well“ which is „extraordinary“.

„My bloods are showing that I’m very well, my tumour markers are stable. In basic terminology under five is considered a normal tumour marker, and I’m sitting under two which is obviously extraordinary. So, my tumour markers are actually lower than Jeremy’s who doesn’t have cancer.“

According to Bowel Cancer Australia, 15,531 Australians are diagnosed with the disease each year, including 1,716 people under the age of 50.

It claims the lives of 5,350 people annually.

It’s a huge misconception that bowel cancer is an „old person’s“ disease. There are more and more stories of women showing up with bowel cancer or symptoms of bowel cancer, particularly postpartum.

„I think since being diagnosed…and obviously speaking about it so openly, the amount of people I’ve heard who have similar stories or have parents in their 40s who have been diagnosed with bowel cancer…even my own surgeon who’s been diagnosed since me…it’s just crazy,“ she admits.

„It is the leading cancer killer for people in my age bracket, the 25 to 36, so that’s huge.“

In her own experience, Finlayson tells Harley the symptoms we should all be looking out for. Worryingly, four of the five are things women experience on the regular, particularly if they’re pregnant or postpartum.

„The five symptoms I’d list off are abdominal pain, infrequencies in the bowel, blood in the stool is obviously a huge one, unexplained tiredness is another one, and also weight loss.“

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Why is my period late? 3 reasons why you missed a period

If you’re sexually active, your first instinct is no doubt to race down to the pharmacy for a pregnancy test. However, there are several other reasons why your menstrual cycle has skipped a beat.

Missing a period can be stressful, but it is quite common. 

While it’s easy to assume that a late period indicates pregnancy, that’s not always the case. There are actually many reasons why your cycle might be off schedule – some are harmless, while others may require medical attention. Understanding them is an important step towards maintaining your reproductive health and overall wellbeing.

Ahead, we’ll run through some of the most common reasons why your period could be late.

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“The first thing we exclude with a late period is pregnancy,” says Dr Kirsty Wallace-Hor, a GP at Kin Fertility. “This is especially important if someone is trying for a baby, if they have had unprotected sex, or if they’ve been inconsistent with taking their contraceptive pill. This can be checked with an at-home urine pregnancy test, or by doing a urine or blood test with your GP.”


Certain medications can cause changes in your cycle, particularly hormonal contraceptives, which for some people, can lead to late or irregular periods, or even stop them altogether.

“This can be done deliberately with the combined oral contraceptive pill, but it can also happen even when you aren’t intentionally trying to skip periods, particularly when you’ve been taking the pill for a while. Provided you have been taking your pill regularly, this isn’t dangerous, and your period will return to what’s normal for you when you stop the pill,” Dr Wallace-Hor clarifies.

“When starting a new contraceptive, it’s important to discuss with your doctor what you can expect in terms of changes to your period, and how long it may take to return to “your normal” if you stop using that contraceptive,” she adds.

Other drugs like antidepressants, antipsychotics, anti-epilepsy medications and chemotherapy can also mess with your cycle.

Medical conditions

“Certain medical conditions can impact the regularity of your menstrual cycle, including polycystic ovarian syndrome, thyroid disorders, and diabetes. Irregular periods are also common during the menopause transition,” Dr Wallace-Hor explains.

“Weight changes, nutritional deficiencies (such as from disordered eating or untreated coeliac disease), emotional stress, and stress caused by illness and excessive exercise can also cause late or irregular periods.”

What should you do if your period is late?

If you struggle with irregular periods, Dr Wallace-Hor recommends you seek medical help for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it can be a symptom of a more serious health condition, and the earlier you get a diagnosis, the better.

And secondly, because there is treatment. “Irregular periods can be managed by treating any underlying medical conditions or causes, or by regulating them with hormonal contraception. Medication can also be used to treat any associated symptoms like painful or heavy periods.”

Lifestyle changes like working out regularly, reducing stress, taking the right supplements (with the advice of your GP or health professional), ditching cigarettes and avoiding alcohol can help as well.

An irregular menstrual cycle isn’t something you have to live with. Speak with your doctor and get it back on track.

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