Reports examine injury hospitalisations and deaths

Two new reports released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) look at injury and poisoning cases that resulted in hospitalisation or death.

The first report, Hospital separations due to injury and poisoning, Australia 2003-04, shows that over 5% of all hospitalisations were injury or poisoning cases, and that falls and transport-related injuries together accounted for over half of those hospitalisations.

Fall injuries were the largest group of injuries at 36% of all hospitalised injury cases (123,461). Nearly half of the fall injuries occurred in people aged 65 years and over.

Transport-related injuries were the second largest group at 14% (48,511 cases). Most (97%) transport-related injuries occurred on land, with 62% occurring on a public highway.

Car occupants (38%), motorcyclists (23%), pedal cyclists (17%) and pedestrians (8%) accounted for most of the injured.

Almost 60% of transport-related injuries occurred to people aged 15-44 years, and 68% of those cases were male.

Ms Jesia Berry of the AIHW's National Injury Surveillance Unit said that although far less common, there were also notable gender differences in intentional self-harm (7%) and assault injury (6%) cases.

'Three-quarters of intentional self-harm injuries occurred in the 15-44 year age range and 62% of those cases were female,' Ms Berry said.

The highest rate of intentional self-harm occurred among women aged 15-19 years, at the rate of 397 per 100,000-over three times the rate for men the same age (122 per 100,000).

The majority (82%) of hospitalised injury due to assault cases also fell into the 15-44 year age range and most (73%) of those cases were male.

The highest rate of assault occurred among men aged 20-24 years, at the rate of 402 per 100,000-close to four times the rate for women the same age (112 per 100,000).

The second report, Injury Deaths, Australia 2003-04, was compiled by the AIHW's National Injury Surveillance Unit using data processed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics originating mainly from Coroners.

The report shows that injury is a major cause of death, accounting for over 7% of all deaths during 2003-04 and nearly half (47%) of deaths for those under 40 years of age.

According to the report, 9,924 people died following injury in 2003-04.

Falls were the most frequent cause of death (2,960 deaths) accounting for 30% of all fatal injuries, but the next most frequent cause of death was suicide, which accounted for at least 22% of all injury deaths (2,173). The majority of suicides were male (79%).

Dr James Harrison of the AIHW's National Injury Surveillance Unit cautioned that some types of injury deaths are known to be undercounted or overcounted.

'Overall there has been a steady downward trend in the rate of recorded suicide between 1997-98 and 2003-04. However, it appears that this decline may be, at least in part, due to undercounting,' said Dr Harrison.

There were 1,724 deaths recorded as resulting from transport-related injury in 2003-04, but data from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau suggest this is an undercount by about 240 cases.

Assault was recorded as the cause of death in 215 cases in 2003-04. Data from the Australian Institute of Criminology suggest that this is an undercount of about 80 cases.

Findings on injury hospitalisations also include:

  • Hospitals treated 344,849 people for injuries and poisoning from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2004
  • Falls and transport-related injuries account for half of all injury hospitalisations
  • Nearly half of unintentional falls occurred in people aged 65 and over
  • The highest rate of fall injuries occurred in women aged 85 and over
  • The highest rate of transport-related injuries occurred in males aged 15-19 years of age
  • For intentional self-harm hospitalisations, 75% were aged 15-44
  • The majority (82%) of assault cases were aged from 15-44 years
  • The highest rate of assault occurred among men aged 20-24 years

Findings on injury deaths also include:

  • 6,205 males and 3,719 females died following injury in 2003-04
  • Young adults, aged 25-39 years, accounted for 25% of all injury deaths
  • Young males accounted for 20% of all injury deaths
  • Falls were the most frequent cause of death (2,960), accounting for 30% of all fatal injuries
  • 2,173 deaths were attributed to suicide and the majority of suicides were male (1,710)
  • 1,724 deaths were recorded as resulting from transport-related injury
  • 824 deaths were attributed to unintentional poisoning by drugs
  • 260 people drowned in 2003-04
  • 215 deaths were recorded as homicide and males accounted for two-thirds of cases.

12 January 2007

Further information on injury hospitalisations: Ms Jesia Berry, tel. 08 8201 7626

Further information on injury deaths: Dr James Harrison, tel. 08 8201 7602

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.