Injuries caused by contact with living things include bites, stings and envenomation from animals, insects and plants, along with unintentional person-to-person contact—such as injuries from playing sport.

In 2019–20, injuries caused by contact with living things resulted in:

25,000 hospitalisations

98 per 100,000 population

 22 deaths

0.1 per 100,000 population

This represents 4.7% of hospitalised injuries and 0.2% of injury deaths.

In medical coding terms, this topic includes exposure to animate mechanical forces, contact with venomous animals and plants and exposure to or contact with allergens: allergy to animals.

Because of the low number of deaths from contact with living things, they are not discussed below.

This category only includes unintentional injuries. Intentional harm is included under Assault and homicide.

Causes of hospitalisation

In 2019–20:

  • contact with non-venomous animals was the top cause (62%) of hospitalisations in this category (Table 1). Of these, half (52%) involved dogs (Table 2)
  • person-to-person contact accounted for a quarter (26%) of hospitalisations in this category (Table 1)
  • for hospitalisations involving venomous animals, bees and wasps (24%) were the most common (Table 3).
Table 1: Causes of injury hospitalisations due to contact with living things, 2019–20

Cause

Hospitalisations

%

Rate
(per 100,000)

Contact with non-venomous animals (W53–59, W61)

15,391

62

60

Unintentional person-to-person contact (W50–52)

6,417

26

25

Contact with venomous animals and plants (X20-29)

2,465

10

9.7

Contact with plants (W60)

420

1.7

1.6

Allergy to animals (Y37.6)

80

0.3

0.3

Other and unspecified (W64)

193

0.8

0.8

Total

24,966

100

98

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 (11th edition) external cause codes (ACCD 2019).
4. Person-to-person contact includes being hit, struck, kicked, twisted, bitten or scratched by another person, striking against or bumping into another person, and being crushed, pushed or stepped on by crowd or human stampede. Injuries involving a fall as a result of a collision with or pushing by another person are not included. See Falls.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 2: Non-venomous animals involved in injury hospitalisations, 2019–20

Type of animal

Number

%

Rate
(per 100,000)

Dogs (W54)

8,037

52

31

Other mammals (W55)

4,472

29

18

Non-venomous snakes, lizards and other reptiles (W59)

1,966

13

7.7

Non-venomous insects and arthropods (including spiders) (W57)

619

4

2.4

Non-venomous marine animals (excluding crocodiles) (W56)

203

1.3

0.8

Birds (W61)

53

0.3

0.2

Rats (W53)

30

0.2

0.1

Crocodiles and alligators (W58)

11

0.1

0.0

Total

15,391

100

60

Notes
1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population, calculated using estimated resident population as at 31 December of the relevant year.
2. Percentages and rate may not sum  to total due to rounding.
3. Codes in brackets refer to the ICD-10-AM (11th edition) external cause codes (ACCD 2019).

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 3: Venomous animals involved in injury hospitalisations, 2019–20

Type of venomous animal

Number

%

Rate
(per 100,000)

Bees and wasps (X23)

600

24

2.4

Spiders (X21)

582

24

2.3

Snakes (X20)

539

22

2.1

Others (X22, X24–X29)

744

30

3.0

Total

2,465

100

9.7

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 sum  to total due to rounding.
4. Codes in brackets refer to the ICD-10-AM (11th edition) external cause codes (ACCD 2019).

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detail, see Data tables B19–20.

Seasonality and COVID-19

Hospital admissions due to contact with living things appear to display a minor seasonal pattern, with peaks in summer and autumn before a low from July to October.

In March 2020 the first lockdowns and social distancing measures associated with COVID-19 interrupted the usual activity of Australians. The restrictions to movement and activity coincided with a marked drop in overall injury hospitalisations. For injuries due to contact with living things, there were 28% fewer admissions from March to May than in the same period of the previous year.

See the interactive COVID-19 display for data and further discussion about the impact on hospital admissions.

Figure 1: Hospitalisations due to contact with living things, by month, 2017–18 to 2019–20

Notes
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.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Variation by age and sex

Injury rates due to contact with living things differ for males and females and across age groups. In 2019–20:

  • 57% of the hospitalisations were for males
  • the age-standardised rates of hospitalisation were 114 cases per 100,000 males, and 84 per 100,000 females
  • young people aged 15–24 had the highest rate of hospitalisation (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Hospitalisations due to contact living things, by age group and sex, 2019–20

Bar graph of hospitalisations. 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 B19–20.

Severity

There are many ways that the severity, or seriousness, of an injury can be assessed. Using 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.

From calculations based on these, injuries due to contact with living things appear less severe than the average for all hospitalised injuries (Table 4).

Table 4: Severity of hospitalised injuries due to contact with living things, 2019–20

 

Contact with living things

All injuries

Average number of days in hospital

2.0

4.5

% of cases with time in an ICU

0.5

2.4

% of cases involving continuous ventilatory support

0.2

1.4

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.

Types of injury sustained

In 2019–20, the wrist and hand was the body part most often identified as the principal site of injury in hospitalisations caused by contact with living things (33%), followed by the head and neck (19%) (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Hospitalised injuries due to contact with living things, by principal body part injured, 2019–20

The visualisation features an outline of a person with labels for body parts accounting for hospitalisation due to contact with living things. Injuries to the wrist and hand accounted for the most hospitalisations while the trunk (including spine, abdomen and pelvis) accounted for the fewest.

Note: Body part refers to the principal reason for hospitalisation. Number and percentage of injuries classified as Other, multiple and incompletely specified body regions and 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.

Open wounds were the most common type of injury for people who were hospitalised due to contact with living things, followed by fracture (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Hospitalised injuries due to contact with living things, by type of injury, by sex, 2019–20

Bar graph showing type of injury sustained by category and by sex. Open wound was the most common for both males and females, followed by fracture. 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 2019–20, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  • there were almost 1,800 hospitalisations due to contact with living things, with the rate for males 1.8 times as high as for females  (Table 5)
  • hospitalisation rates were highest in the 25–44 and 15-24 age groups, compared with other age groups (Figure 5).
Table 5: Number and rate of hospitalisations due to contact with living things by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

1,141

647

1,788

Rate (per 100,000)

267

151

209

Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

In 2019–20, Indigenous people, compared with non-Indigenous Australians, were 2.3 as likely to be hospitalised due to contact with living things (Table 6).

Deaths are not compared here because of low numbers.

Table 6: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of injury hospitalisations due to contact with living things by Indigenous status and sex, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

268

159

213

Non-Indigenous Australians

107

81

94

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.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Figure 5: Injury hospitalisations due to contact with living things, by Indigenous status, by age group and sex, 2019–20

The visualisation features a column graph for hospitalisations. The columns represent 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.

Remoteness

In 2019–20, people living in Australia’s Very remote areas, compared with people living in Major cities, were four times as likely to be hospitalised due to contact with living things (Table 7).

Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Table 7: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of injury hospitalisations due to contact with living things by remoteness and sex, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

90

68

80

Inner regional

144

116

130

Outer regional

193

128

161

Remote

276

152

216

Very remote

398

224

315

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

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

The highest age-specific rate of injury hospitalisation due to contact with living things was among the 15–24 life-stage age group living in Very remote areas of Australia. (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Hospitalisations due to contact with living things, by remoteness, by age group and sex, 2019–20

Column graph for hospitalisations. The columns represent 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.

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

More information

Defining injury hospitalisations and deaths: how injuries were counted

Technical notes: how the data were calculated

Data tables: download full data tables

Glossary