This report is the sixth in a series of reports on hospitalisations due to falls by older people in Australia. It focuses on hospitalised falls that occurred in the financial year 2009-10.

Falls in 2009-10 

The estimated number of hospitalised injury cases due to falls in people aged 65 and over in 2009-10 was 83,800-more than 5,100 extra cases than in 2008-09.

Women accounted for most of the hospitalised fall injury cases and rates of fall cases were higher for women than for men for all age groups. As in the previous year, the age-standardised rate of hospitalised fall injuries involving older women exceeded 3,000 per 100,000 population.

About one-third of fall injury cases had injuries to the hip and thigh, and the majority of these were hip fractures. Head injuries accounted for 1 in 5 hospitalised cases and were proportionately more common for men than for women.

Circumstances of falls 

As in previous years, a fall on the same level due to slipping, tripping and stumbling was the most common cause of hospitalised injury.

About 70% of hospitalised falls in 2009-10 were recorded as having occurred in either the home or an aged care facility. About half of the falls in the home were recorded as having occurred in 'other and unspecified' places in the home (48%). Outdoor areas of the home, the bathroom and the bedroom were common places of occurrence. However, this level of detail was only available for about half the cases that occurred in the home.

Burden of fall-related injury 

One in every 10 days spent in hospital by a person aged 65 and older in 2009-10 was directly attributable to an injurious fall (1.3 million patient days over the year), and the average total length of stay per fall injury case was estimated to be 15.5 days.

The first period of hospital care for a fall-related injury at ages 65 and older in 2009-10 accounted for 0.57 million patient days.

In about 10,000 cases the patient was transferred to another hospital, accounting for another 0.14 million patient days. Fall-related follow-up care hospitalisations numbered almost 34,000 and accounted for a further 0.57 million patient days.

In addition to the burden directly attributable to fall-related injury, 'other fall-related' and 'tendency to fall' separations added a further 47,000 episodes of hospital care (0.62 million patient days) to the total due to falls. Of note, the age-standardised rates of fall-related hospitalisations of these types are increasing, substantially in the case of fall-related follow-up care separations.