Intentional violence between two or more people resulting in hospitalised injury or death is captured in AIHW statistics as instances of assault and homicide. Hospitalised injuries caused by assault are most often caused by bodily force; males are much more likely to be hospitalised for assault or die from homicide than females and fracture is the most common type of injury sustained in hospitalised injury cases.

In some cases, people who seek health care due to assault choose not to disclose that their injuries were caused by an intentional act. This may be because the perpetrator is related or known to the injured person and because assault is a criminal act. For these reasons, intentional assault injury cases can be difficult to identify in hospital statistics—they may instead be coded as a type of unintentional injury such as a Fall or Contact with an object—or details of the cause of the assault may be incomplete or unspecified. For more information, see Technical notes.

In 2017–18, 4.1% of hospitalised injury cases were due to assault and 1.4% of injury deaths were due to homicide.

In 2017–18, assault and homicide resulted in:

22,058 hospitalisation cases

89 per 100,000 population

182 deaths

0.7 per 100,000 population

This article only includes data on injuries that result in hospital admission or death. If a person dies from an injury after being admitted to hospital, both the hospitalisation and the death is included in this report. For more information, see Defining injury hospitalisation cases and injury deaths.

Which types of assault resulted in hospitalisation?

In 2017–18:

  • 3 in 5 hospitalised assault cases were caused by bodily force (Table 1)
  • 201 hospitalisations involved firearm discharges, of which 102 were legal interventions (for example, inflicted by law enforcement authorities)
  • 241 (1.1%) hospitalised assault cases involved sexual assault by bodily force.
Table 1: Top causes of injury hospitalisation assault cases, 2017–18

Cause

Number

%

Rate (per 100,000)

Bodily force (includes assault and sexual assault) (Y04–05)

13,481

61

54

Blunt object (Y00)

3,169

14

13

Sharp object (X99)

2,462

11

10

Other or unspecified (X85–93, X95–98, Y01–03, Y06–09, Y35–36)

2,946

13

12

Total

22,058

100

89

Notes:

  1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population, calculated using estimated resident population as at 31 December of the relevant year.
  2. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.
  3. Codes in brackets refer to the ICD-10-AM (10th edition) external cause codes (ACCD 2017).

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detailed data, see Data tables B21–22.

Trends over time

Since 2008–09, there has been:

  • a 3.2% annual average decrease in assault hospitalisation rates to 2016–17, although there has been an upturn in rates since 2014–15.
  • a 4.0% annual average decrease in homicide death rates to 2017–18.

Annual average rate changes are calculated using modelled age-standardised rates (see Technical notes for more details).

Because of changes in data collection methods, hospitalisations data for 2017–18 should not be compared with those of previous years and are not included in Figure 1 (see Technical notes for more details). Deaths data for 2017–18 are comparable with rates for previous years.

Figure 1: Hospitalised assault cases and homicide deaths, by age group and sex, 2008–09 to 2016–17 (hospitalisation cases) and 2008–09 to 2017–18 (deaths)

The visualisation features 2 matching line graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisation cases and 1 for deaths. The 3 lines represent the trend for males, females and persons from 2008–09 to 2016–17 for hospitalisation cases and to 2017–18 for deaths. The reader can select to display rate per 100,000 population or number, and can select by life-stage age group including all ages.

For more detailed data, see Data tables C1–4 and E1–4.

How do rates vary by age and sex?

Assault injury hospitalisation and homicide death rates differ for males and females, especially for certain age groups (Figure 2).

In 2017–18:

  • 64% of assault injury hospitalisations were for males (14,085 cases) and 36% were for females (7,972 cases)
  • 73% of homicide deaths were for males (133 deaths) and 27% were for females (49 deaths)
  • almost 630 children under 15 and 360 people aged 75 and over were hospitalised due to assault (see data by 5-year age group in Data table A1)
  • the age-standardised rate of assault injury hospitalisations for males was 118 cases per 100,000 males, compared with 67 per 100,000 females
  • the age-standardised rate of homicide deaths for males was 1.1 per 100,000 males, compared with 0.4 for females
  • assault hospitalisation and homicide rates peak in early and mid-adulthood, compared with other life-stage age groups—159 people per 100,000 aged 25–44 were hospitalised for assault and 1.1 per 100,000 died due to homicide.

Figure 2: Hospitalised assault cases and homicide deaths, by age group and sex, 2017–18

The visualisation features 2 matching column graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisation cases 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 males and females and the reader can also select to display persons.

For more detailed data, see Data tables A1–3 and D1–3.

How do rates vary by perpetrator?

Assault hospitalisation cases were most commonly caused by a perpetrator known to the victim (that is, a spouse or domestic partner, parent, other family member, carer, acquaintance or friend). The perpetrator was unspecified in a large number of cases (37%) (Figure 3). This is often because the victim and perpetrator may have an ongoing relationship (ABS 2020).

Figure 3: Relationship of perpetrator to the victim in hospitalised assault cases, 2017–18

Bar graph representing categories of relationship of perpetrator to victim, by sex. For males the most common category was unspecified person, followed by person unknown to the victim followed by acquaintance or friend. For females it was spouse or domestic partner, followed by unspecified person followed by other family member.

For more detailed data, see Data tables B23–24.

How severe are hospitalised injuries due to assault?

Three measures that may indicate the severity of hospitalised injuries are length of stay, percentage of cases with time in an intensive care unit (ICU), and percentage of cases involving time on a ventilator.

The average duration of a hospital stay for assault injuries was shorter than the average for all injury hospitalisations and the percentage of assault cases that included time in an ICU was lower than the overall percentage for hospitalised injuries. The percentage of assault cases that involved continuous ventilator support was slightly higher than for all hospitalised injuries (Table 2).

Table 2: Severity of hospitalised assault cases, 2017–18

 

Assault injury

All hospitalised injuries

Average number of days in hospital

2.0

3.3

% of cases with time in an ICU

2.1

2.4

% of cases involving continuous ventilator support

1.3

1.2

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.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Which types of injury are sustained?

In 2017–18, the head and neck was the body part most frequently injured in hospitalised assault accidents (Figure 4). In part, this may reflect the inherently serious nature of head and neck injuries—injuries to other parts of the body may be less likely to result in admission to hospital.

Figure 4: Hospitalised assault cases by body part injured, 2017–18

Note: Body part refers to the principal reason for hospitalisation. Number and percentage of injuries classified as Other, multiple and incompletely specified body regions or Injuries not described in terms of body region not shown—see Data table A11.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detailed data, see Data table A11.

Fractures and open wounds were the most common type of injury for people who were hospitalised due to an  assault (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Hospitalised assault cases, by type of injury, by sex, 2017–18

Bar graph showing type of injury sustained by category and by sex. Fracture was the most common for males, while open wound was for females. The reader can select to display either the crude rate per 100,000 population or the number of cases. The default display shows data for males and females, and the reader can also select to display for persons.

For more detailed data, see Data table A12.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

In 2017–18, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  • there were over 6,850 hospitalisations due to assault and 24 homicide deaths (Tables 3 and 4)
  • females were 1.2 times as likely to be hospitalised due to assault, compared with males; males were 2.4 times as likely to die due to homicide, compared with females
  • hospitalisation rates were higher among people aged 25–44, compared with other life-stage age groups (Figure 6).
Table 3: Number and rate of hospitalised assault cases by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

3,061

3,798

6,859

Rate (per 100,000)

745

923

834

n.p. Not publishable because of small numbers, confidentiality or other concerns about the quality of the data.

Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 4: Number and rate of homicide deaths by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

17

7

24

Rate (per 100,000)

4.7

1.9

3.3

n.p. Not publishable because of small numbers, confidentiality or other concerns about the quality of the data.

Notes:

  1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population.
  2. Deaths data only includes data for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

In 2017–18, Indigenous Australians, compared with non-Indigenous Australians, after adjusting for differences in population age structure, were:

  • 14.5 times as likely to be hospitalised due to assault (Table 5)
  • 5.6 times as likely to die due to homicide, however caution is advised when using this figure due to the relatively small numbers involved (Table 6).
Table 5: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of hospitalised assault cases by Indigenous status and sex, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

851

1,038

944

Non-Indigenous Australians

95

36

65

Notes:

  1. Rates are age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population (per 100,000).
  2. ‘Non-Indigenous Australians’ includes cases where Indigenous status is missing or not stated.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 6: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of hospitalised assault cases and homicide deaths by Indigenous status and sex, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

n.p.

n.p.

3.9

Non-Indigenous Australians

1.1

0.3

0.7

Notes:

  1. Rates are age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population (per 100,000).
  2. ‘Non-Indigenous Australians’ includes cases where Indigenous status is missing or not stated.
  3. Deaths data only includes data for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.

The age-specific rate of hospitalised assault cases was highest among the 25–44 life-stage age group for Indigenous Australians and the 15–24 age group for non-Indigenous Australians and (Figure 6). Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Figure 6: Hospitalised assault cases by Indigenous status, by age group and sex, 2017–18

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 detailed data, see Data tables A4–A6 and D4–D8.

Remoteness

In 2017–18, people living in Australia’s Very remote areas, compared with those living in Major Cities, using age-standardised rates, were 19 times as likely to be hospitalised due to assault (Table 7). These differences in assault injury hospitalisations rates partly reflect the higher proportion of Indigenous Australians living in remote areas of Australia.

Homicide death rates increase with remoteness as well, but readers are advised to use these data with caution due to relatively small numbers (Table 8).

Table 7: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of hospitalised assault cases by remoteness and sex, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

91

38

65

Inner regional

110

47

78

Outer regional

187

123

155

Remote

477

669

570

Very remote

965

1,587

1,244

n.p. not publishable because of small numbers, confidentiality or other concerns about the quality of the data.

Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 8: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of homicide deaths by remoteness and sex, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

0.8

0.3

0.6

Inner regional

1.2

n.p.

0.9

Outer regional

n.p.

n.p.

1.1

Remote

n.p.

n.p.

n.p.

Very remote

n.p.

n.p.

n.p.

n.p. not publishable because of small numbers, confidentiality or other concerns about the quality of the data.

Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.

The highest age-specific rate of hospitalised assault cases was among the 25–44 life-stage age group living in Very remote areas of Australia. (Figure 7).

Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Figure 7: Hospitalised assault cases by remoteness, by age group and sex, 2017–18

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 detailed data, see Data tables A7–A9 and D9–10.

For information on how statistics by remoteness are calculated, see Technical notes.

More information

Technical notes—read about how the data were calculated.

Data tables—download full data tables.

Glossary
 

Flinders University logo
Research provided by Flinders University