The death toll of Covid-19 in Australia in 2022 is higher than all of 2020 and 2021 combined. This is why jaw-dropping figures are met with apathy.
If I told you that Australia’s Covid-19 death toll in just four months of 2022 was more than double the full number of pandemic deaths in the previous two years, would you be shocked?
Or would you just shrug and put it in the back of your mind along with the horrors of the daily blockades and press conferences and fears of the unknown of 2020 and 2021?
The figures are very real. According to the federal government’s Department of Health, more than 4,500 deaths have already occurred this year, compared with only 2,239 deaths in the previous two years.
But the way we process them has changed.
Maree Teesson is Professor of Psychology at the University of Sydney and Director of the Matilda Center for Research in Mental Health.
She says she is surprised at how quickly the Aussies died, but she understands what’s behind it.
“Basically I think Australians really care for each other, so it’s pretty hard for us to shut down,” he told news.com.au.
“But it’s understandable.”
He says Australians have become “so tolerant of the number of cases and deaths” in part because they can only tolerate intense fear of something for so long before their minds actively start avoiding it.
“Human beings respond to fear by fight or flight. And fear was the main motivation used very intensively for behavior change during the pandemic.
“It has been extremely effective in increasing social distancing and the spread of the virus, but it is also a very straightforward tool for change. And while it motivated people to distance themselves socially, it reduced social cohesion and connection in our community. “
He said the pandemic has led people to “feel powerless” about the spread of the virus and “it may therefore be easier to avoid it and shut it down.”
“We have damaged the social connections that keep us mentally healthy and a caring community and we will have to work to rebuild them.”
Professor Teesson said that “the apparent indifference to mortality rates is a greater social problem for me: a lack of social connection”.
“It’s the pointed end of the stick,” he said.
There is another reason why Professor Teesson thinks people have moved away from their obsession with the everyday covid deceased.
“Context is really important,” he said. “The fact is that now, compared to two years ago, we have a really effective vaccine. So for most people they have been vaccinated, [getting Covid-19] it will be a mild disease “.
He said the experience of the pandemic, including being separated from friends and family, will have a lasting impact, particularly on young people.
“We are absolutely concerned about the things that crop up along the way.” said Prof Teesson.
“We’ve seen anxiety and depression escalate. This doesn’t go away without us dealing with it.” The pandemic has a long tail. Basically it goes back to this thing that you turn these drivers on and you can’t just turn them off. “
The University of South Australia biostatistician said Professor Adrian Esterman The Guardians that apathy towards the virus is dangerous even though it is no longer “an absolute acute emergency”.
“We could still get there another variant it will arrive tomorrow, which is worse than Delta, “he said.
The study of why people are mentally detaching themselves from the pandemic is nothing new.
The Atlantic spoke to Lori Peek, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Boulder who studies disasters. He posed the simple question: “Our national empathy – our mutual care, love and concern – is at such a low level that we don’t really feel, in our bones, hearts and souls, the greatness of the loss? “
David Dozois, a professor of clinical psychology in Ontario, Canada, wrote for The Conversation that “the fatigue of caution” was to blame.
“At the start of the pandemic, many people were extremely concerned,” he wrote. They didn’t know what Covid-19 was, how bad things would get and how best to deal with this problem.
“They have received information … on how to handle this virus and stay safe; they took the necessary precautions.
“Over time many people have experienced caution fatigue – feeling less motivated or inclined to follow expert advice on Covid-19 and becoming more and more tired of physical distancing, maintaining good hand hygiene, following guidelines. arrows in local grocery stores and wearing masks.
“As much as the advice was to ‘stay home’, people wanted to go out and see friends and family.”
This is driving Australia’s current response to the Omicron wave, says Prof Teesson.
“We spent two years focusing on fear, often feeling helpless. So it can be easier to avoid it and turn it off. “
South Australia reported two deaths from Covid-19 on Wednesday. Six lives were lost to Covid-19 in Queensland. There were 15 deaths from Covid-19 in NSW and 14 in Victoria on Wednesday.
Originally published as Deaths from Covid-19 in Australia in 2022 are more than double the previous two years