Intentional violence against another person is classified as assault (injury) or homicide (death).

Males are more likely than females to be hospitalised from assault or die from homicide. Hospitalised injuries from assault are most often caused by bodily force, such as punching and kicking. Fracture is the most common type of injury sustained in hospitalised assaults.

In 2018–19, assault and homicide resulted in:

22,200 hospitalisations

88 per 100,000 population

245 deaths

1.0 per 100,000 population

This represents 4.1% of hospitalised injuries and 1.8% of injury deaths.

People who seek health care due to an assault may choose not to disclose that their injuries were intentional. This may be because they know the perpetrator and want to avoid criminal proceedings. For this reason, assault injuries are probably not all identified as such in hospital statistics—they may instead be coded as an unintentional injury such as a Fall or Contact with an object—or details of the assault may be incomplete or unspecified. For more information, see Technical notes.

Types of assault involved in injury hospitalisation

In 2018–19:

  • 3 in 5 hospitalised assault injuries (61%) were caused by bodily force (Table 1)
  • 1 in 7 (14%) were caused by a blunt object.
Table 1: Most common causes of hospitalised assault injuries, 2018–19

Cause

Number

%

Rate
(per 100,000)

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

13,450

61

53.5

Blunt object (Y00)

3,056

14

12.1

Sharp object (X99)

2,585

12

10.3

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

3,065

14

12.1

Total

22,156

100

88

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 detail, see Data tables B29–30.

Trends over time

The age-standardised rate of hospitalisations due to assault in 2018–19 was 1% lower than the previous year. There had been a downward trend between 2009–10 and 2014–15, followed by an upward trend to 2016–17 – leaving an average annual decrease of 1.9% for the period from 2009–10 to 2016–17.

Figure 1 shows that, when examined by sex, the overall decrease is accounted for by the male rate. The age-standardised female rate in fact increased (at a more gentle slope). 

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).

The homicide death rate showed an average annual decrease of 2.1% between 2009–10 and 2018–19. There were notable flucations, however, and over the final year it rose from 0.9 to 1.0 per 100,000. (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Hospitalised assault injuries and homicide deaths, by sex, 2009–10 to 2018–19

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 2009–10 to 2018–19. The reader can select to display rate per 100,000 population or number.

 For more detail, see Data tables C1–7 and E1–4.

Variation by age and sex

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

In 2018–19:

  • 63% of assault injury hospitalisations and 71% of homicides were for males
  • the age-standardised rates of hospitalised assault were 115 cases per 100,000 males and 67 per 100,000 females
  • the age-standardised rates of homicide deaths were 1.4 per 100,000 males and 0.5 per 100,000 females
  • rates peaked in early to mid-adulthood—155 per 100,000 people aged 25–44 were hospitalised and 1.5 per 100,000 died due to assault injuries.

Figure 2: Hospitalised assault injuries and homicide deaths, by age group and sex, 2018–19

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 males and females and the reader can also select to display persons.

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

Relationship to perpetrator

Key differences between the sexes can be seen in statistics about the relationship of the victim to the perpetrator of hospitalised assaults. For female victims, the perpetrator was a domestic partner in almost 6 out of 10 of the cases where the relationship was specified. For male victims, it was more likely to be a person or persons unknown, or an acquaintance, than a family member (Figure 3).

The perpetrator was unspecified in a large proportion of cases (48% for male victims and 16% for female victims). This information may be unavailable for a number of reasons, including because it was not reported by, or on behalf of, victims, or not recorded in the patient’s hospital record (AIHW 2019).

A range of factors may influence disclosure of the perpetrator in a hospital setting, for example: personal feelings such as fear of further abuse, or shame; and factors specific to the setting, including sufficient privacy and time to disclose, and appropriate staff training and procedures which support disclosure.

Figure 3: Relationship of perpetrator to victim in hospitalised assaults, 2018–19

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 detail, see Data tables B30–31.

Severity of hospitalised injuries

There are many ways that the severity, or seriousness, of an injury could be assessed. Using the available data, three measures of the severity of hospitalised injuries are:

  • number of days in hospital
  • time in an intensive care unit (ICU)
  • time on a ventilator.

The average number of days in hospital for assault injuries was shorter than for all hospitalised injuries. The percentage of assault cases that included time in an ICU was slightly lower, while the percentage that involved continuous ventilatory support was slightly higher than for all hospitalised injuries (Table 2).

Table 2: Severity of hospitalised assault cases, 2018–19

 

Assault

All injuries

Average number of days in hospital

2.3

4.1

% of cases with time in an ICU

2.4

2.5

% of cases involving continuous ventilatory support

1.6

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.

For more detail, see Data table A12–13.

Nature of injuries sustained

In 2018–19, the head and neck was the body part most often identified as the principal site of injury in hospitalised assaults (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 lead to admission to hospital.

Figure 4: Hospitalised assaults, by principle body part injured, 2018–19

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 detail, see Data table A11.

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

Figure 5: Hospitalised assaults, by principal injury type, by sex, 2018–19

 

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 detail, see Data table A10.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

In 2018–19, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  • there were over 6,600 assault hospitalisations and 26 homicide deaths (Tables 3 and 4)
  • 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 injuries by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2018–19

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

    2,970

3,648

6,618

Rate (per 100,000)

710

870

790

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, 2018–19

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

20

6

26

Rate (per 100,000)

5.4

1.6

3.5

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 2018–19, Indigenous Australians, after adjusting for differences in population age structure, were:

  • 13 times as likely as other Australians to be hospitalised due to assault (Table 5)
  • About 4 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians 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 injuries by Indigenous status and sex, 2018–19

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

807

968

886

Other Australians

94

38

66

Notes
1. Rates are age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population (per 100,000).
2. ‘Other 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 homicide deaths by Indigenous status and sex, 2018–19

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

6.8

n.p.

4.1

Non-Indigenous Australians

1.4

0.5

1.0

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

Notes
1. Rates are age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population (per 100,000).
2. ‘Non-Indigenous Australians’ excludes 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.

For more detail, see Data tables A4–6 and D4–8.

The age-specific rate of hospitalised assaults 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 injuries by Indigenous status, by age group and sex, 2018–19

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 A4–6 and D4–8.

Remoteness

In 2018–19, people living in Australia’s Very remote areas, compared with those living in Major Cities, were 17 times as likely to be hospitalised due to assault (age-standardised) (Table 7). These differences in assault injury hospitalisations rates partly reflect the higher proportion of Indigenous Australians living in remote areas of Australia.

Table 7: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of hospitalised assault injury, by remoteness and sex, 2018–19

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

90

40

65

Inner regional

117

44

80

Outer regional

175

139

157

Remote

443

615

527

Very remote

788

1,486

1,104

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

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

The highest age-specific rate of hospitalised assaults 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 injuries, by remoteness, by age group and sex, 2018–19

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 A7–9 and D9–10.

To read how statistics by remoteness are calculated, see the Technical notes.

More information

Defining injury hospitalisations and deaths: how injuries were counted

Technical notes: how the data were calculated

Data tables: download the full tables

Glossary