Falls most common cause of hospital injuries

In the last 15 years, falls have accounted for almost half of all hospitalised injuries. Photo: iStock.

More Australians are being hospitalised for injuries, with falls and transport crashes remaining the leading cause of injuries.

A new report issued the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), Trends in hospitalised injury, Australia 1999-2000 to 2014-15, shows falls account for almost half (41%) of all hospitalised injuries, followed by transport crashes (12%).

“The number of hospitalised injury cases rose from 327,000 in 1999-2000 to 480,000 in 2014–15,” says AIHW spokesperson Professor James Harrison, from the AIHW National Injury Surveillance Unit at Flinders University’s Research Centre for Injury Studies.

“This equated to one person requiring hospitalisation in every 58 Australians in 1999-00, rising to about one in 50 in 2014-15,” says injury epidemiologist and public health physician Professor James Harrison.

After hospitalisations for falls, exposure to mechanical forces and intentional self-harm have also risen.

After adjusting for changes in the population structure, this is an average rate increase of about 1% per year.

The report found the number of hospitalisations for accidental poisoning and assault fell during this period.

Over the same period, the average length of stay in hospital due to injury has remained constant at four days. This equates to more than 1.7 million hospital days for the 480,000 cases in 2014-15.

After falls, road traffic accidents, and other accidents including mechanical forces lead the injuries which lead to the most hospital admissions in Australia.
After falls, road traffic accidents, and other accidents including mechanical forces lead the injuries which lead to the most hospital admissions in Australia.

Females had a greater length of stay than males (4 days compared with 3 days) in 2014-15.

Men and boys made up the majority (55%) of injuries in 2014-15. The greatest number of injury cases for males occurred at age 20-24, while the greatest number of injury cases for females occurred at age 85-89 in 2014-15.

Despite this wide age range, falls are the most common cause of hospitalised injury in both men (32%) and women (52%).

“Overall, people aged 65 or over accounted for 30% of injury cases, with the majority of these being for falls,” Professor Harrison says.

People living in remote areas of Australia required hospitalisation for injury at twice the rate of those living in major cities – with 1 in 27 people living in very remote areas requiring hospitalisation compared to 1 in 54 in major cities.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are also twice as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to be hospitalised for injury,” Professor Harrison said.

As well as Trends in hospitalised injury due to falls in older Australians 2002-03 to 2014-15, other new AIHW reports cover Eye injuries Australia 2012–2015, Spinal cord injury Australia 2014-15, and more.  

More than 100,000 people aged 65 years and over were hospitalised for falls in 2014-15, with injuries to the hip and thigh (24%) and head (24%) were the most common types of injury resulting from a fall.

Women accounted for most of these fall injury cases (74,186), while the rates of injuries to the head more than doubled in the period between 2002-03 and 2014-15.

Of 264 newly incident cases of traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) due to external causes were reported to the Australian Spinal Cord Injury Register in 2014–15.

Males accounted for 4 in 5 (80%) of traumatic SCI cases, with around one-third (35%) sustained during sports or leisure activities after land transport crashes (42%) and falls (40%).

Among eye injuries, 51,778 people were hospitalised in the five-year period between 2010 and 2015.

Two-thirds of these were males, with falls (35%) and assaults (23%) the most common causes of eye injuries.

Among 86,602 presentations made to an emergency department due to an eye injury in the two-year period between 2013 and 2015, only 1% of these patients were admitted to hospital.

See all of the reports at the AIHW website.


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