Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Accidental poisoning, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 03 October 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Accidental poisoning. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/accidental-poisoning
Accidental poisoning. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 16 June 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/accidental-poisoning
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Accidental poisoning [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2022 Oct. 3]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/accidental-poisoning
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Accidental poisoning, viewed 3 October 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/accidental-poisoning
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Accidental poisoning is caused by exposure to an amount of a substance that harms the body. It leads to thousands of hospitalisations and more than a thousand deaths in Australia each year, and mostly involves pharmaceutical drugs. In this report, the term ‘pharmaceutical drugs’ includes those prescribed by a health practitioner and those obtained by any other means.
In 2019–20, accidental poisoning resulted in:
42 per 100,000 population
6.0 per 100,000 population
This represents 2.1% of injury hospitalisations and 11% of injury deaths.
Intentional poisoning injuries are included under Self-harm and suicide and Assault and homicide. The adverse effects of correctly prescribed and consumed drugs are not included in this report.
Type of pharmaceutical
Other and unspecified drugs, medicaments and biological substances (includes hormones and their synthetic substitutes and antagonists, not elsewhere classified, such as insulin) (X44)
Antiepileptic, sedative-hypnotic, antiparkinsonism and psychotropic drugs not elsewhere classified (includes benzodiazepines and psychostimulants with potential for use disorder, such as amphetamines) (X41)
Narcotics and psychodysleptics (hallucinogens), not elsewhere classified (includes opioids such as codeine, morphine and heroin) (X42)
Non-opioid analgesics, antipyretics and antirheumatic drugs (includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (X40)
Other drugs acting on the autonomic nervous system (X43)
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.
For more detail, see Data tables B7–8.
Type of non-pharmaceutical substance
Other gases and vapours (not included in X46 below), such as exhaust fumes and carbon monoxide (X47)
Organic solvents and halogenated hydrocarbons and their vapours (X46)
Other and unspecified chemicals and noxious substances (X49)
Type of substance
Other specified and unspecified drugs, medicaments and biological substances (includes drugs acting on the autononomic nervous system, hormones and their synthetic substitutes and antagonists, not elsewhere classified, such as insulin) (X43–X44)
Other and unspecified gases, vapours, chemicals and noxious substances (X46–X49)
Other identified unspecified accidental poisoning
Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.
For more detail, see Data tables E10–11.
Hospital admissions due to accidental poisoning do not appear to exhibit a seasonal pattern, remaining relatively steady throughout the year.
In March 2020, the first lockdowns and social distancing measures associated with COVID-19 interrupted the usual activity of many Australians. The initial restrictions to movement and activity do not appear to have strongly impacted accidental poisoning injuries, with almost the same number of hospitalisations occurring in March to May (0.3% less) as in same period of the previous year (Figure 1). However, there appear to have been slightly less admissions in March 2020 and more in May 2020 than in the same months of the previous years.
See the interactive COVID-19 display for data and further discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on hospital admissions.
1. Months have been standardised to 31 days.
2. A scale up factor has been applied to June admissions to account for cases not yet separated.
The age-standardised rate of hospitalisations due to poisoning in 2019–20 was 1.6% higher than a year earlier. It is difficult to determine whether this increase was impacted by the effects of COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing.
Over the period from 2009–10 to 2016–17, there was an average annual increase of 1.6% for the age-standardised rate of accidental poisoning hospitalisations. There is a break in the time series for hospitalisations between 2016–17 and 2017–18 due to a change in data collection methods (see the Technical notes for details).
For deaths due to poisoning, the age-standardised rate for 2019–20 was 1.5% lower than a year earlier. The average annual increase in rate between 2010–11 and 2019–20 was 1.1% (Figure 2).
The visualisation features 2 matching line graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The 3 lines represent the trend for males, females and persons from 2010–11 to 2019–20. The reader can select to display rate per 100,000 population or number.
For more detail, see Data tables C1–7 and F1–4.
Accidental poisoning hospitalisation rates were similar for males and females, but the male rate of death was more than twice the rate of females. Age patterns were also markedly different between hospitalisations and deaths (Figure 3).
For accidental poisonings in 2019–20:
The visualisation features 2 matching column graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The columns represent sex within 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display either age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The default displays male and female and the reader can also select to display persons.
For more detail, see Data tables A1–3 and D1–3.
There are many ways that the severity, or seriousness, of an injury can be measured. Using available data, three measures of the severity of hospitalised injuries are:
The average number of days in hospital for accidental poisoning was less than the average for all injury hospitalisations, but the percentage of cases that included either time in an ICU or on continuous ventilatory support were higher than for all (Table 4).
Average number of days in hospital
% of cases with time in an ICU
% of cases involving continuous ventilatory support
Note: Average number of days in hospital (length of stay) includes admissions that are transfers from 1 hospital to another or transfers from 1 admitted care type to another within the same hospital, except where care involves rehabilitation procedures.
For more detail, see Data tables A12–13.
In 2019–20, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:
Rate (per 100,000)
Note: Persons includes cases where sex is intersex, indeterminate or missing.
For more detail, see Data tables A4–5 and D4-5.
In 2019–20, Indigenous Australians, compared with non-Indigenous Australians, after adjusting for differences in population age structure, were:
For more detail, see Data tables A6 and D8.
The age-specific rate of accidental poisoning injury hospitalisation cases was highest among the 0–4 life-stage age group for both Indigenous and other Australians (Figure 4). Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.
Column graph representing hospitalisation data for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also select to display data for persons, males or females.
For more detail, see Data tables A4–A6 and D4–D8.
In 2019–20, people living in Very remote areas had the highest rate of hospitalisation by accidental poisoning and people living in Major cities areas had the lowest rate. People living in Very remote areas, using age-standardised rates, were 1.6 times as likely to be hospitalised due to poisoning as those living in Major cities (Table 9).
People living in Inner regional areas had higher rates of death by accidental poisoning than those in Major cities or Outer regional areas (Table 10).
Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.
n.p. not publishable because of small numbers, confidentiality or other concerns about the quality of the data.
For more detail, see Data tables A9 and D9.
The highest age-specific rate of accidental poisoning hospitalisations was among the 0–4 life-stage age group living in Very remote areas of Australia. (Figure 5).
Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.
Column graph representing hospitalisation data for each of the 5 remoteness categories by 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also select to display data for persons, males or females.
For more detail, see Data tables A7–A9 and D9–10.
For information on how statistics by remoteness are calculated, see Technical notes.
Defining injury hospitalisations and deaths: how injuries were counted
Technical notes: how the data were calculated
Data tables: download the full tables
ACCD (Australian Consortium for Classification Development) 2019. The international statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, 10th revision, Australian modification (ICD-10-AM), 11th edn. Tabular list of diseases and alphabetic index of diseases. Adelaide: Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA), Lane Publishing.
WHO (World Health Organization) 2011. International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, tenth revision. Fifth edition 2016. Geneva: WHO.
The following are publications from recent years with information on accidental poisoning. See Reports for any older publications that may exist.
Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia
Alcohol and other drug treatment services
The first year of COVID-19 in Australia: direct and indirect health effects
Trends in hospitalised injury, Australia, 2007–08 to 2016–17
Trends in injury deaths, Australia, 1999–00 to 2016–17
Indigenous injury deaths, 2011–12 to 2015–16
Hospitalised injury and socioeconomic influence in Australia, 2015–16
Injury mortality and socioeconomic influence in Australia, 2015–16
Poisoning in children and young people 2012–13
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