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Injury is one of the main causes of burden of disease in Australia—in 2011, it was estimated that it accounted for 9% of the disease burden.

Information about the incidence of serious injury in Australia is estimated by analysing data about injury cases that were severe enough to require admission to hospital, along with information about people who died as a result of injury.   

Overall, some population groups are more likely than others to experience serious injury that results in hospitalisation or death. Groups at higher risk include: 

  • males
  • people aged 65 and over
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people
  • people who live in remote areas of Australia.

Hospitalised injury

Hospitalised injuries can range from single fractures to catastrophic injuries such as spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury that may result in lifelong disability. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, 7% of the main long-term health conditions experienced by the estimated 4.3 million Australians living with disability occurred as a result of injury or poisoning.

The rate of hospitalised injury has been rising slowly since 1999–00, even after adjusting for the changes in the profile of the Australian population over this period. About 1 in 6 injury cases are classified as ‘high threat to life’, which represent cases where the person is likely to experience persisting problems and ongoing needs for health care services.

Falls and transport crashes account for most hospitalised injury cases, but other common causes are intentional self-harm, assault, poisoning by pharmaceuticals, and burns.

Injury deaths

Injury remains a significant cause of death in Australia—between 1999–00 and 2012–13, around 8% of all deaths were injury-related, although age-standardised rates of injury death fell between 1999–00 and 2004–05, and have been relatively stable in recent years.

The most common causes of injury deaths are falls, intentional self-harm, and transport accidents. Other causes include homicide and violence, drowning and poisoning. Since 1999–00, there has been a fall in the rates of injury death related to transport accidents and homicide, but no change in the rates of death related to falls and suicide.

The AIHW produces regular reports on a range of injury-related topics that explore patterns of injury and trends over time.