Falls are Australia’s largest contributor to hospitalised injury cases and a leading cause of injury deaths. In 2017–18, 42% of hospitalised injury cases and 40% of injury deaths were due to falls.

Falls can happen to anyone at any location, but falls requiring hospitalisation are more common in older people and are most likely to occur in the home.

Over half of fall-related hospitalisations involve a fracture.

This article summarises key data on unintentional falls that result in hospitalisation or death. Intentional injuries and deaths involving falls are included under Self-harm injuries and suicide.

In 2017–18, falls resulted in:

222,725 hospitalisation cases

898 per 100,000 population

5,156 deaths

20.8 per 100,000 population

This report 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 falls resulted in hospitalisation?

In 2017–18:

  • 1 in 2 hospitalisation cases due to unintentional falls occurred on a single-level surface (for example, by slipping or due to a collision)
  • 1 in 15 hospitalisation cases due to unintentional falls involved stairs or steps (Table 1).
Table 1: Top causes of injury hospitalisation cases due to falls, 2017–18

Cause

Number

%

Rate (per 100,000)

Slipping, tripping or stumbling on same level (W01)

64,080

29

258

Other fall on same level (W18)

47,087

21

190

Fall on or from stairs or steps (W10)

15,355

7

62

Fall involving furniture (including bed and chair) (W06–08)

14,878

7

60

Fall involving playground equipment (W09)

7,105

3

29

Fall involving ice-skates, skis, roller-skates or skateboards (W02)

5,759

3

23

Other fall on same level due to collision with, or pushing by, another person (W03)

5,644

3

23

Fall on or from a ladder (W11)

5,643

3

23

Other specified types of falls (W00, W04–05, W12–17)

17,136

8

69

Unspecified fall (W19)

40,038

18

161

Total

222,725

100

898

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 B9–10.

Trends over time

Since 2008–09, there has been:

  • a 1.9% annual average increase in falls hospitalisation rates to 2016–17
  • a 1.4% annual average increase in falls 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). Death data for 2017–18 are comparable with rates for previous years.

Figure 1: Falls injury hospitalisation cases and 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?

Falls were one of the few causes of injury where females outnumbered males, both for hospitalisations and deaths.

This section presents data by life-stage age groups and shows that people aged 65 and over were more likely to be hospitalised or die due to a fall compared with other life-stage age groups (Figure 2). There was considerable variation in hospitalisation rates within the 65-and-over age group, with rates ranging from 1,122 per 100,000 population for those aged 65–69 to 16,459 per 100,000 population for people aged 95 and over—see Data tables A1–3 for hospitalisations data by 5-year age groups.

In 2017–18:

  • 58% of hospitalisations for unintentional falls (128,926 hospitalisations; 3,347 per 100,000 population) and 95% of falls deaths (4,873 deaths; 126.5 per 100,000 population) were for people aged 65 and over
  • 56% of hospitalisations due to falls were for females (125,526 cases) and 44% were for males (97,195 cases)
  • 56% of deaths due to falls were for females (2,863 deaths) and 44% were for males (2,293 deaths)
  • the age-standardised rate of falls injury hospitalisations for males was 761 cases per 100,000 males, compared with 801 per 100,000 females
  • the age-standardised rate of falls injury deaths for males was 16.2 per 100,000 males, compared with 17.7 per 100,000 females
  • falls by females were more likely to be on the same level, (for example, by slipping, tripping or stumbling) or on steps. Males were more likely to have falls involving collisions, scaffolding, ladders, trees, playground equipment, skates, skis or skateboards, and building structures.

Figure 2: Falls injury hospitalisation cases and 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 severe are hospitalised injuries due to falls?

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

The average duration of hospital stays for falls was longer than the average for all injury hospitalisations. The percentage of falls cases that included time in ICU was lower than the overall percentage for hospitalised injuries, and the percentage of falls cases that included time on continuous ventilator support was higher than the overall percentage for hospitalised injuries (Table 2).

Table 2: Severity of hospitalised injury cases due to falls, 2017–18

 

Injuries due to falls

All hospitalised injuries

Average number of days in hospital

4.6

3.3

% of cases with time in intensive care

1.7

2.4

% of cases involving continuous ventilator support

0.4

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 were the body parts most frequently injured in hospitalised falls (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Falls injury hospitalisation cases by body part injured, 2017–18

The visualisation features an outline of a person with labels for body parts accounting for hospitalisation due to a fall. Injuries to the head and neck accounted for the most falls hospitalisations while the ankle and foot accounted for the fewest falls hospitalisations.

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.

Fractures were the most common type of injury for both males and females who were hospitalised due to a fall (Figure 4). Open wound, intracranial, and internal organ or vessel of trunk injuries were more common in males than females. Hip and lower limb injury, and shoulder and upper limb injury were more common in females than males. Wrist and hand injuries were more common in males than females.

Figure 4: Falls injury hospitalisation 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 both males and females, followed by open wound. 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 6,500 hospitalisations and 38 deaths due to unintentional falls (Tables 3 and 4)
  • males were 1.1 times as likely as females to be hospitalised due to falls, while females were 1.2 times as likely as males to die, using age-standardised rates
  • falls hospitalisations were higher among people aged 65 and over, compared with other life-stage age groups (Figure 5).
Table 3: Number and rate of falls injury hospitalisation cases by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

3,569

2,991

6,560

Rate (per 100,000)

868

727

798

Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

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

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

18

20

38

Rate (per 100,000)

5.0

5.5

5.2

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 1.4 times as likely to be hospitalised due to a fall (Table 5). This trend was reversed for deaths due to falls, where non-Indigenous Australians were 1.4 times as likely to die than Indigenous Australians, although readers are advised to use these data with caution due to low numbers (Table 6).

Table 5: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of falls injury hospitalisation cases by Indigenous status and sex, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

1,109

1,033

1,078

Non-Indigenous Australians

751

800

784

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 falls injury deaths by Indigenous status and sex, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

n.p.

12.3

11.5

Non-Indigenous Australians

15.9

17.4

16.7

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 falls injury hospitalisation cases was highest among the 65-and-over life-stage age group for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (Figure 5). Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Figure 5: Falls injury hospitalisation 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

Hospitalisations due to falls showed an atypical pattern by remoteness areas compared with most other causes of injury, which generally show that the most remote areas had the highest rates and the least remote areas had the lowest rates. In 2017–18, while people living in Very remote areas did have the highest rate of hospitalisations for injuries from falls, the lowest rate was for people living in Inner regional areas—people living in Very remote areas were 1.4 times as likely to be hospitalised due to a fall as people living in Inner regional areas (Table 7).

The pattern of falls deaths according to remoteness of usual residence was also different to that of most other causes of injury. In 2017–18, people living in Remote areas had the highest rate and were 1.4 times as likely to die due to a fall than people living in Very remote areas, who had the lowest rate (Table 8).

Table 7: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of falls injury deaths by remoteness and sex, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

756

811

793

Inner regional

731

761

752

Outer regional

765

792

784

Remote

896

945

923

Very remote

1,008

1,137

1,070

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 falls injury deaths by remoteness and sex, 2017–18

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

16.7

17.6

17.2

Inner regional

14.8

17.5

16.2

Outer regional

15.2

18.3

16.8

Remote

18.1

19.2

18.6

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 fall injury hospitalisation cases was among the 65-and-over life-stage age group living in Major cities. (Figure 6).

Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Figure 6: Falls injury hospitalisation 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

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