Likelihood of hospitalised injury rises with older age

The likelihood of older Australians being hospitalised after suffering injury increased in line with increasing age, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Hospitalised injuries in older Australians: 2011–12, shows that there were approximately 126,000 Australians aged 65 and over admitted to hospital due to injury in 2011–12, accounting for over one-quarter of all injury hospitalisations.

The rate of injury hospitalisations for older Australians increased from about 1,700 cases per 100,000 population for those aged 65–69 to 11,400 cases per 100,000 population for those aged 85 or over. 

‘The rate of injury hospitalisations for women (4,300 cases per 100,000 women) was nearly one-third higher than the rate for men (3,200 cases per 100,000 men), after allowing for the greater number of women than men who survive to old age,’ said AIHW spokesperson Professor James Harrison.

The leading causes of unintentional injury in 2011–12 were falls (77%). Injury by inanimate mechanical forces (injuries involving an object) (6%), transport crashes (5%), animate mechanical forces (injuries due to contact with animals or people, excluding assault), or venomous bites and stings (2%) and poisoning by pharmaceuticals (1%) accounted for most of the remaining unintentional injury.

‘There were approximately 96,000 cases of hospitalised falls injury in 2011–12. The rate increased with increasing age, with the highest number of hospitalisations recorded among people aged 85 and older (41,267),’ Professor Harrison said.

Roughly equal numbers of older men (3,228) and women (2,941) sustained a transport-related injury. Women were more likely than men to have been injured while in a car, as a pedestrian, or on a bus, and less likely than men to have been injured while using a motorcycle or a pedal cycle.

Striking or being struck by an object was the most common cause of hospitalised injury due to inanimate mechanical forces, followed by contact with tools and machinery. For the latter group, more than half of the injury cases in men were due to powered hand tools.

Bites or being struck by dogs, cats, cattle, and horses were the most common causes of hospitalisation among older Australians due to animate mechanical forces.

Medications used to treat diabetes and manage pain were the most common drugs reported in cases of unintentional poisoning by pharmaceuticals for older Australians in 2011–12. Pharmaceutical drugs were also involved in about 77% of hospitalisations for intentional self-harm among older Australians in 2011–12.

The average length of stay in hospital was 7.6 days for older Australian women compared with 6.8 days for men. This average increased with increasing age for both men and women, from nearly 5 days at ages 65–69 to over 8 days at age 85 and over.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

 Canberra, 8 July 2014

Further information: Professor James Harrison, tel. 08 8201 7602 mob. 0405 031 467

Full publication: