Falls are Australia’s largest contributor to hospitalised injuries and a leading cause of injury deaths. In 2018–19, 43% of hospitalised injuries and 39% 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 injury hospitalisations involve a fracture.

In 2018–19, falls resulted in:

231,000 hospitalisations

920 per 100,000 population

5,300 deaths

21.2 per 100,000 population

This page summarises data on unintentional falls. Intentional injuries and deaths are included under Assualt and homicide or Self-harm and suicide.

Causes of hospitalised fall injuries

In 2018–19:

  • Over half of all falls leading to hospitalisation occurred on a single-level surface (for example, by slipping or due to a collision)
  • Only 7% of falls leading to hospitalisation involved stairs or steps (Table 1).
Table 1: Most common causes of fall injury hospitalisations, 2018–19

Cause

Number

%

Rate (per 100,000)

Slipping, tripping or stumbling on same level (W01)

66,949

29

266

Other fall on same level (W18)

49,787

22

198

Fall on or from stairs or steps (W10)

16,015

7

64

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

15,747

7

63

Fall involving playground equipment (W09)

6,715

3

27

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

6,024

3

24

Fall on or from a ladder (W11) 6,010 3 24

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

6,006

3

24

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

16,916

7

67

Unspecified fall (W19)

41,106

18

163

Total

231,275

100

919

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 B11–12.

Trends over time

The age-standardised rate of hospitalisations due to falls in 2018–19 was 1.2% higher than the previous year. Over the period from 2009–10 to 2016–17 there was an average annual increase of 2.0%.

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 falls, the average annual increase in rate between 2009–10 and 2018–19 was 1.8% (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Fall injury hospitalisations and 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 C1–6 and E1–4.

Variation by age and sex

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

People aged 65 and over were more likely to be hospitalised or die due to a fall compared with other life-stages (Figure 2).

For falls in 2018–19:

  • 58% of hospitalisations and 94% of deaths were for people aged 65 and over
  • 56% of hospitalisations and 53% of deaths were for females
  • the age-standardised rate of hospitalisation was 770 cases per 100,000 for males, compared with 820 per 100,000 for females
  • the age-standardised rate of death for females was 14 per 100,000, compared with 18 per 100,000 for males.

Figure 2: Fall injury hospitalisations and 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.

The very oldest are most at risk of a serious fall injury. There was a rate of 16,600 hospitaliations per 100,000 for people aged 95 and over—see Data tables A1–3 for 5-year age bands.

Different age groups tend to engage in different activities, leading to a different pattern of fall types for each age group. For hospitalised falls in 2018–19:

  • Furniture was involved in 28% of cases among young children aged 0–4
  • Playing equipment was involved in 27% of cases among older children 5–14
  • Collisions and pushes were involved in 21% of cases for youths and young adults aged 15–24
  • Slips, trips and stumbles become responsible for a greater proportion of cases as people age (Table 2).
Table 2: Percentage of fall injury hospitalisations by cause, by age group, 2018–19
Cause 0–4 5–14 15–24 25–44 45–64 65+
Slipping, tripping or stumbling on same level (W01) 12 14 13 22 32 34
Other fall on same level (W18) 11 14 16 16 17 26
Fall on or from stairs or steps (W10) 5 2 6 10 11 6
Fall involving furniture (including bed and chair) (W06–08) 28 4 1 2 4 7
Fall involving playground equipment (W09) 14 27 2 1 0 0
Fall involving ice-skates, skis, roller-skates or skateboards (W02) 4 10 10 7 2 0
Other fall on same level due to collision with, or pushing by, another person (W03) 1 9 21 7 1 0
Fall on or from a ladder (W11) 0 0 2 5 7 2
Other specified types of falls (W00, W04–05, W12–17) 17 14 17 17 10 3
Unspecified fall (W19) 8 7 11 13 16 22
Total 100 100 100 100 100 100

Notes:
1. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.
2. 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 B12–13.

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 falls was longer than for all hospitalised injuries in 2018–19. The percentage of falls that included time in ICU was lower than for all hospitalised injuries. The percentage requiring continuous ventilatory support was higher (Table 3).

Table 3: Severity of hospitalised injuries due to falls, 2018–19

 

Injuries due to falls

All injuries

Average number of days in hospital

6.0

4.1

% of cases with time in intensive care

1.8

2.5

% of cases involving continuous ventilatory 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.

For more detail, see Data tables A12 and A13.

Nature of injuries sustained

In 2018–19, the head and neck were the body parts most often identified as the principal site of injury in fall hospitalisations (Figure 3). In part, this may reflect the inherently serious nature of head and neck injuries.

Figure 3: Fall hospitalisations by principal body part injured, 2018–19

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 sustained for both males and females who were hospitalised due to a fall (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Fall injury hospitalisations, by type of injury, by sex, 2018–19

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 detail, see Data tables A10 and A11.

Some variation is apparent between sexes in the type of injury sustained from hospitalised falls. Fractures and superficial injuries were more common for females than males. Dislocation, soft tissue, open wound, intracranial, and internal organ or vessel of trunk injuries were more common for males than females.

There is also variation in the body part injured. Hip and lower limb injuries, and shoulder and upper limb injuries were more common for females than males. Head and neck, and wrist and hand injuries were more common in males than females.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

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

  • there were almost 7,000 hospitalisations and 34 deaths due to unintentional falls (Tables 4 and 5)
  • Rates of fall hospitalisations were highest among people aged 65 and over (Figure 5).
Table 4: Number and rate of fall injury hospitalisations by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2018–19

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

3,696

3,300

6,996

Rate (per 100,000)

884

787

835

Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 5: Number and rate of falls injury deaths by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2018–19

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

20

14

34

Rate (per 100,000)

5.4

3.8

4.6

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.

For more detail, see Data tables A4–5 and D4–5.

Indigenous and other Australians

In 2018–19, Indigenous Australians were 1.3 times as likely as other Australians to be hospitalised due to a fall injury, after adusting for differences in population age (Table 6). This trend was reversed for deaths, where non-Indigenous Australians were 1.3 times as likely to die due to a fall than Indigenous Australians, although readers are advised to use these data with caution due to low numbers (Table 7).

Table 6: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of fall injury hospitalisations by Indigenous status and sex, 2018–19

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

1,050

1,031

1,046

Other Australians

746

853

807

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 7: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of fall injury deaths by Indigenous status and sex, 2018–19

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

13.7

n.p.

13.6

Non-Indigenous Australians

17.9

16.7

17.3

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 table A6 and D6.

The age-specific rate of falls hospitalisations was highest among the 65 and over life-stage age group for both Indigenous and other Australians (Figure 5). Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Figure 5: Fall injury hospitalisations by Indigenous status, by age group and sex, 2018–19

Column graph representing hospitalisation data for Indigenous and other 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–D6.

Remoteness

Hospitalisations due to falls showed a slight variation from most other causes of injury when examined by remoteness. For the majority of causes, the most remote areas had the highest rates and the least remote areas had the lowest rates. For falls, while the highest rate continues to be the most remote areas, the lowest rate was in Inner regional areas.

In 2018–19, 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 8).

The pattern of falls deaths according to remoteness of usual residence was also different to that of most other causes of injury. In 2018–19, people living in Outer regional areas areas had the highest rate and were 1.1 times as likely to die due to a fall than people living in Major cities (Table 9).

Table 8: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of fall injury hospitalisations by remoteness and sex, 2018–19

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

765

827

805

Inner regional

736

753

750

Outer regional

805

822

818

Remote

898

931

918

Very remote

922

1,143

1,025

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

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 9: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of fall injury deaths by remoteness and sex, 2018–19

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

17.7

13.6

15.4

Inner regional

18.5

14.9

16.6

Outer regional

18.0

15.4

16.7

Remote

n.p.

17.4

15.6

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.

For more detail, see Data tables A9 and D9.

The highest age-specific rate of fall injury hospitalisations was among the 65 and over age group living in Major cities (Figure 6).

Deaths data are not presented here because of small numbers.

Figure 6: Fall injury hospitalisations 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–A9 and D9–10.

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

More information

Defining injury hospitalisations and deaths: how injuries were counted

Technical notes: read about how the data were calculated.

Data tables: download full data tables.

Glossary