The older you are the harder you fall, especially if you're at home and a woman

The likelihood of sustaining a fall injury serious enough to require hospitalisation increases exponentially from about 65 years of age - especially if you're a woman, says a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Hospitalisation due to falls in older people, Australia 2003-04, showed that in 2003-04 Australians aged 65 years and older sustained an estimated 60,497 falls that resulted in injuries serious enough to require hospitalisation.

Clare Bradley of the AIHW's National Injury Surveillance Unit said 'Fall injury incidents per 100,000 people was 2,300 for people aged 65 and older, but increased to 9,700 per 100,000 for those over 90 years of age, and women had a much higher rate overall than men (2,800 per 100,000 for females compared to 1,600 per 100,000 for males).'

Seven out of ten of those falls resulting in serious injury occurred in the home or in an aged care facility.

'Serious fall injuries from slipping, tripping or stumbling made up 34% of fall injury incidents, and serious falls frequently involved a fracture' Ms Bradley said.

The most frequent type of injury sustained was an injury to the hip and thigh (34% of fall injuries).

The mean length of stay in hospital for fall injury incidents was about eight days for both males and females.

'As well as sustaining a higher rate of falls, when elderly people fall, those falls tend to have more severe consequences, resulting in longer stays in hospital' Ms Bradley said.

In addition to the cases in which a fall injury was recorded as the Principal Diagnosis, there were also numerous instances in which a fall injury was recorded as an Additional Diagnosis. Another 41,000 fall-related hospital discharges in this category were identified for people aged 65 years and older in 2003-04. These separations mainly represent additional episodes of care due to injuries sustained from falls rather than new falls cases.

Fall-related hospitalisations accounted for fewer than 5% of all hospital discharges for this age-group in 2003-04, but for almost 11% of all hospital bed-days, reflecting the long hospital stays often required for fall injuries.

The direct cost of fall-related acute episodes of hospitalised care was estimated to be $566 million for people aged 65 and older in 2003-04.

4 July 2007

Further information: Ms Clare Bradley, AIHW, tel. 61 8 8201 7625.

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