This report focuses on trends in fall-related hospital care for people aged 65 and older that occurred over the period 1999-00 to 2010-11. Information is also presented on the incidence and burden of hospitalised fall injury in the financial year 2010-11.
Falls in 2010-11
The estimated number of serious injuries due to falls in people aged 65 and older in 2010-11 was 92,150. Females accounted for most of these fall injury cases, and rates of cases were higher for females than for males for all age groups.
About 70% of fall injury cases in 2010-11 were recorded as having occurred in either the home or an aged care facility. The age-standardised rate of falls in the home for older people living in the community was 1,647 per 100,000 population while the rate of falls for older people living in aged care facilities was 9,226 per 100,000 population.
In addition to the separations representing these fall injury cases, there were more than 100,000 other fall-related hospital separations for people aged 65 and older in 2010-11.
One in every 10 days spent in hospital by a person aged 65 and older in 2010-11 was directly attributable to an injurious fall. These episodes of care accounted for 1.4 million patient days over the year and the average total length of stay per fall injury case was estimated to be 14.7 days.
Trends in hospitalised fall-related injury 1999-00 to 2010-11
The patient days for hospital care directly attributable to fall-related injury doubled, from 0.7 million patient days in 1999-00 to 1.4 million patient days in 2010-11.
Age-standardised rates of fall injury cases increased over the 12 years to June 2011 (2% per year), however there was a decrease in the rate of hip fractures due to falls (-1% per year). There were nearly 25,000 extra fall injury cases for people aged 65 and older in 2010-11 than there would have been if the rate of falls had remained stable since 1999-00.
The decrease in the rate of hip fracture was confined to the period 1999-00 to 2005-06. No change in trend was observed from 2006-07. Most other types of fall-related fracture increased over the study period.
Falls resulting in head injuries increased at a particularly high rate (7% per year). Increases in the rate of fall injury cases and fall-related head injury were most apparent for residents of Major cities (3% and 8% per year, respectively).
Rates of fall injury for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were generally lower than those for Other Australians although both sets of rates showed similar trends. Continuing weakness in the identification of Indigenous status limited analysis.
Rates of fall-related hospital care episodes additional to the initial episode for each fall injury case (such as follow-up care) increased significantly over the study period. However, the average total length of stay per case was relatively stable over the study period (around 15 days). Hence this increase may have been due to changes in hospital practices (for example, the division of care into multiple episodes) rather than because fall injuries required more care.