Deaths from falls in the elderly top 1,000 a year

1,014 elderly people (65 years and over) died from accidental falls in Australia in 1998, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Falls by the Elderly in Australia: Trends and Data for 1998 also shows that there were over 45,000 hospitalisations due to fall-related injuries in that year.

In fact, falls accounted for 54% of injury-related hospitalisations for this age group.

Report co-author Dr Raymond Cripps, from the AIHW's National Injury Surveillance Unit at Flinders University, said that the figures, in conjunction with the ageing of the Australian population, clearly showed that prevention of falls in the elderly was a serious public health issue.

'The total number of elderly people increased by at least 17% during the 1990s, with especially large increases in the oldest groups, which our data show are at the highest risk of injury and deaths from falls.

'In terms of deaths, the oldest age group (85+) has 40 times the risk of the 65 to 69-year-olds.

'In terms of hospitalisations for falls, the numbers increase rapidly with age. There is a nine-fold increase in the rate for both men and women between 65 years of age and 85+ years of age.'

Other findings of the report include:

  • the female to male ratio of hospitalisations due to accidental falls in people aged 65 and over was 3:1.
  • women aged 65 and over had a 2.8 times higher risk of fractures due to falls than men.
  • there is little difference in death rates due to falls between elderly men and women. Men actually have a higher death rate for the 75-79 age group.
  • 48% of accidental falls leading to hospitalisation occur in the home.

16 November 2001


Further information: Dr Raymond Cripps, AIHW National Injury Surveillance Unit, tel. 08 8374 0970
Media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032