Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Forces of nature, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 11 August 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Forces of nature. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/forces-of-nature
Forces of nature. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 16 June 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/forces-of-nature
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Forces of nature [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2022 Aug. 11]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/forces-of-nature
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Forces of nature, viewed 11 August 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/forces-of-nature
Get citations as an Endnote file:
Injuries caused by exposure to forces of nature are those which occur when environmental conditions become dangerous. This includes exposure to too much natural heat or sunlight, natural disasters, and lightning strikes. Burns injuries due to bushfires are not included, they fall under Thermal causes.
In 2019–20, injuries from exposure to forces of nature caused:
3.5 per 100,000 population
0.2 per 100,000 population
This represents 0.2% of injury hospitalisations and 0.4% of injury deaths. Older people were at higher risk.
This report summarises data on unintentional exposures. Intentional injuries and deaths are included under Self-harm injuries and suicide or Assault and homicide.
Exposure to forces of nature covers ICD external cause codes X30–39. Exposure to excessive natural heat is the most common cause of hospitalised injury in this group. Exposure to excessive natural cold is the most common cause of death.
In 2019–20, two-thirds of hospitalisations due to forces of nature (67%) were caused by exposure to excessive natural heat (Table 1).
Exposure to excessive natural heat (X30)
Exposure to sunlight (X32)
Exposure to excessive natural cold (X31)
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.
For more detail, see Data tables B21–22.
In 2019–20, half (51%) of deaths due to forces of nature were caused by exposure to excessive natural cold (Table 2).
Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.
For more detail, see Data tables E31–33.
Hospital admissions from exposure to forces of nature exhibit a strong seasonal pattern, typically peaking in summer.
In March 2020, the first lockdowns and social distancing measures associated with COVID-19 interrupted the usual activity of many Australians. The restrictions to movement and activity coincided with a marked drop in overall injury hospitalisations. For injuries due to exposure to forces of nature, the restrictions appear to have accelerated the decline in hospitalisations from the 2019–20 summer peak into autumn, resulting in 46% fewer 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 of COVID-19 on hospital admissions.
Rates of injury hospitalisation from exposure to forces of nature are higher for males and older people (Figure 2). In 2019–20:
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.
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:
The average number of days in hospital for injuries due to exposure to forces of nature was less than the average for all hospitalised injuries in 2019–20. The percentages of cases involving a stay in ICU or continuous ventilatory support were both 1.6 times as high as the average for all injuries (Table 3).
Exposure to forces of nature
Average number of days in hospital
% of cases with time in an ICU
% of cases involving ventilator
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.
For more detail, see Data tables A12–13.
In 2019–20, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:
Rate (per 100,000)
Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.
In 2019–20, Indigenous Australians, compared with non-Indigenous Australians, were 2.4 times as likely to be hospitalised due to exposure to forces of nature (Table 5).
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database and National Mortality Database.
For more detail, see Data tables A4–6 and D4–6.
In 2019–20, people living in Very remote areas were the most likely to be hospitalised due to forces of nature (Table 6). Deaths are not compared here due to low numbers.
Hospitalisations (per 100,000)
Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.
The visualisation features a column graph for hospitalisations. The columns represent data for each of the 5 remoteness categories for males, females and persons. The reader can select to display age-standardised rate per 100,000 population or number.
For more detail, see Data tables A7–9 and D7–9.
For information on how statistics by remoteness are calculated, see the Technical notes.
Defining injury hospitalisations and deaths: how injuries were counted
Technical notes: how the data were calculated
Data tables: download full data tables
ACCD (Australian Consortium for Classification Development) 2019. The international statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, 10th revision, Australian modification (ICD-10-AM), 11th edn. Tabular list of diseases and alphabetic index of diseases. Adelaide: Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA), Lane Publishing.
WHO (World Health Organization) 2011. International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, tenth revision. Fifth edition 2016. Geneva: WHO.
The following are publications from recent years. See Reports for any older publications that may exist.
The first year of COVID-19 in Australia: direct and indirect health effects
Data update: Short-term health impacts of the 2019–20 Australian bushfires
Trends in hospitalised injury, Australia, 2007–08 to 2016–17
Trends in injury deaths, Australia, 1999–00 to 2016–17
We'd love to know any feedback that you have about the AIHW website, its contents or reports.
The browser you are using to browse this website is outdated and some features may not display properly or be accessible to you. Please use a more recent browser for the best user experience.