Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Injury in Australia, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 23 March 2023.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Injury in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/injury-in-australia
Injury in Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 25 November 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/injury-in-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Injury in Australia [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2023 Mar. 23]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/injury-in-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Injury in Australia, viewed 23 March 2023, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/injury-in-australia
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Injuries are a major health care issue in Australia, and the leading cause of death for people aged 1–44.
In the latest years for which data were available, injuries in Australia accounted for:
Injuries caused around:
575,000 hospitalisations in 2020–21
2,200 per 100,000 population
13,400 deaths in 2019–20
53 per 100,000 population
This report divides hospitalisations and deaths from injury into 15 categories, representing the main causes of injury in Australia (see Figure 1). These categories are based on the causes of injury listed in each hospital and death record.
Falls are the most common cause of both hospitalisations and deaths from injury in Australia. The next most common causes of injury leading to hospitalisation in 2020–21 were contact with objects (including blunt or sharp objects) and transport accidents. For deaths in 2019–20, the next most common causes were suicide, accidental poisoning, and transport accidents.
Each of these 15 main causes of injury is explored on its own page.
2 matching bar graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The bars represent the 15 cause categories. The reader can choose to display either crude rate per 100,000 or number. For hospitalisations, falls shows the highest rate at 949 per 100,000.
For more detail, see data tables A1–3 and D1–3.
The total number of hospitalisations for injuries does not usually change much over the seasons. Data for the three most recent years suggest slightly lower numbers during July to October and a dip in January.
From March 2020, a range of restrictions on travel, business and social interactions were introduced in response to COVID-19. These restrictions coincided with a temporary drop in injury hospitalisations, resulting in 14% fewer admissions from March to May than in the same period of the previous year (Figure 2).
For some injury cause categories, the number of hospitalisations does change with the seasons – explore the interactive display.
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.
The age-standardised rate of injury hospitalisation in 2020–21 was 7.9% higher than a year earlier. This followed a dip the previous year that appears to mostly have been caused by COVID-19 restrictions.
Over the period from 2011–12 to 2016–17, the rate of hospitalisations increased by an annual average of 1.5%.
There is a break in the time series between 2016–17 and 2017–18 due to a change in data collection methods (see the technical notes for details).
For injury deaths, the age-standardised rate in 2019–20 was 4.4% lower than a year earlier. Between 2010–11 and 2019–20, there was an average annual decrease in the rate of 0.1%. However, the trends for males and females were different. The rate for females decreased by an annual average of 0.7% over this period, while the rate for males increased by an annual average of 0.2% (Figure 3).
Timeline showing age-standardised rate or number of injury hospitalisations or injury deaths from 2010–11 to 2019–20.
For more detail, see Data tables C1–4 and F1–4.
Rates of injury differ between males and females. The extent of this difference changes over the course of life – some causes of injury are more likely to impact younger males, while other causes are more likely to impact older females.
The following sections explore these differences in age and sex, firstly for injuries overall, and then considering specific causes.
Overall, males had higher rates than females for both injury hospitalisations and deaths. For hospitalisations, males had higher rates until around age 70, above which the rates were higher for females. For deaths, male rates were higher for all age groups except for 0–4-year-olds.
In 2020–21, 55% of injury hospitalisations were for males (316,000 cases) and 45% were for females (259,000 cases). Correspondingly, the age-standardised rate of injury hospitalisation was higher for males at around 2,500 per 100,000, compared with 1,800 per 100,000 for females.
The age distribution of injuries differs between the sexes, as illustrated in Figure 4. Comparing 5-year age groups:
In 2019–20, almost two thirds of injury deaths (62%) were for males (8,400 deaths) and 38% were for females (5,000 deaths). Correspondingly, the age-standardised rates of death were 63 per 100,000 males, and 30 per 100,000 females. Over half of injury deaths (53%) were for people aged 65 and over.
Comparing life-stage age groups:
The graph has 2 tabs, one for hospitalisations and one for deaths. Each tab has 2 dual axis column and line graphs, one graph for males and one for females. The hospitalisations graphs present data for 5-year age groups from age 0 to 4 up to age 95 and over. The columns have the same left axis which presents number of cases. The graphs have the same right axis and present rate per 100,000. Male injury numbers peak in the 20-to-24-year age band while female numbers peak at 85 to 89 years. Rates for both sexes rise notably after around age 70. The deaths graph presents data for stage-of-life age groups.
For more detail, see Data tables A1–3 and D1–3.
The various causes of injury tend to affect one sex more than the other, usually males more than females. Males had higher rates of injury hospitalisation across all causes except falls and intentional self-harm.
Some causes, such as accidental poisoning, showed a relatively small difference in impact between the sexes, while others showed a large difference (Figure 5).
The largest differences in hospitalisation rates in 2020–21 were from:
Males had higher rates of injury death than females across every cause category in 2019–20. For males, the highest age-standardised rate was for suicide, while for females it was for falls.
2 matching bar graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The bars represent males and females in the 15 cause categories. The reader can choose to display age-standardised rate, crude rate per 100,000 or number.
For more detail, see Data tables A1–3, D1–3 and B1–34.
Different age groups face different injury risk factors. As a result, injuries from the various causes occur in different proportions in each age group.
For injury hospitalisations in 2020–21:
For injury deaths in 2019–20:
Figures 6 illustrates which causes of injury are most common for each life-stage age group. Hover over a point of interest for more detail.
Bump chart showing how the causes of injury change order over life-stage age groups. Falls was the number 1 cause of hospitalisation for injury in the 0 to 4 age group, dropping to fourth in the 15 to 24 age group and then rising again to be the number 1 cause in the 65-and-over age group.
For more detail, see Data tables A1–3 and B1–34.
Each cause is discussed further on its own page.
There are many ways the severity, or seriousness, of an injury can be measured. Some of the ways to measure the severity of hospitalised injuries are:
In 2020–21, the most severe injuries in terms of average number of days in hospital were due to falls (6.6 days), thermal causes (5.2 days), and transport accidents (4.4 days) (Figure 7).
The average length of stay may be influenced by the age of those injured, with younger people staying fewer days in hospital than older people across all cause categories. Older people tend to recover more slowly and are more likely to have additional health problems or complications. This particularly affects the statistics for causes with higher proportions of older people, such as falls.
Note: 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.
Almost 12,900 injury hospitalisations (2.2% of all cases) involved a stay in an intensive care unit (ICU) in 2020–21. Injuries due to intentional self-harm and undetermined intent were most likely to result in time in an ICU (Figure 8).
Continuous ventilatory support is when a patient breathes via an artificial airway with the aid of a machine.
About 7,100 injury hospitalisations (1.2% of all cases) involved continuous ventilatory support in 2020–21. Most patients needing this level of support will be in an ICU.
Injuries due to undetermined intent and drowning and submersion were most likely to result in continuous ventilatory support (Figure 8).
When an injured person is admitted to hospital, and dies despite the treatment provided, that can be an indication of the severity of their injuries. Figure 9 compares the causes of injury by the rate of hospitalisations where people died in hospital, per 1,000 patients. Drowning and submersion, and choking and suffocation were the causes with the highest rates of in-hospital death.
For more detail, see Data tables A13–15.
This section summarises:
In 2020–21, the head or neck was the body part most often identified as the main site of injury in hospitalisations (Figure 10). To some extent this probably reflects the serious nature of head and neck injuries.
Different causes tend to lead to different parts of the body being injured. Figure 11 shows the three most common body parts injured for some of the most common cause categories.
Stacked bar graph showing the most commonly injured body parts by cause of injury, as a proportion of hospitalisations. The bars represent 6 causes: falls, contact with objects, transport, assault, contact with living things, thermal causes and overexertion. For each cause, the body part most commonly injured is shown. Body parts are categorised into head and neck, hip and leg, shoulder and arm, wrist and hand, ankle and foot, trunk and other part.
Note: ‘Trunk’ includes thorax, abdomen, lower back, lumbar spine and pelvis.
For more detail, see Data table A11.
Different causes tend to lead to different types of injury. Fractures were the most common type of injury overall and across many cause categories. Open wounds and soft tissue injuries were the next most common overall. Figure 12 shows the most common types of injury in hospitalisations for selected causes.
Stacked bar graph showing the top types of injuries by percentage for injury hospitalisations by selected causes. Injury types are fracture, open wound, superficial injury, soft-tissue injury, intracranial injury, poisoning and other and unspecified. Fracture is the top type of injury for hospitalisation caused by falls and open wound is the top type of injury for hospitalisation caused by contact with living things.
For more detail, see Data table A10.
Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, there were 33,600 hospitalisations for injury in 2020–21, and 520 deaths in 2019–20. Falls and assault were the two most common causes of injury that led to hospitalisations (Table 1); suicide was the most common cause of injury deaths (Table 2).
Indigenous males, compared with Indigenous females (age-standardised) were:
Injury hospitalisation rates were highest for Indigenous Australians in the 25–44 age group (Figure 13).
Contact with objects
Contact with living things
Other unintentional causes
Choking and suffocation
Drowning and submersion
Forces of nature
Electricity and air pressure
Note: All-causes total includes hospitalisations where the cause has undetermined intent or is missing, or where the cause is not elsewhere classified.
Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.
For more detail, see Data tables A4–A6 and D4–D8.
Indigenous Australians, compared with non-Indigenous Australians, using age-standardised rates, were:
The cause of injury hospitalisation with the largest difference in rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians was assault, which was 15 times as high in the Indigenous population. Rates of injury among Indigenous Australians for intentional self-harm, thermal causes, accidental poisoning, contact with living things, undetermined intent and exposure to forces of nature were all more than twice as high as those for non-Indigenous Australians (Table 3).
Source: AIHW National Hospital Mortality Database.
The cause of injury death with the largest difference in rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians was homicide, which was 6.8 times as high in the Indigenous population. Rates of death for accidental poisoning, transport accidents, and suicide were more than twice as high for Indigenous Australians (Table 4). Readers are advised to use caution when using the rates in categories with low numbers of deaths.
Age standardised rates for other categories not publishable because of small numbers, confidentiality or other concerns about the quality of the data.
The rate of injury hospitalisations was highest among the 25–44 life-stage age group for Indigenous Australians and among the 65-and-over age group for non-Indigenous Australians (Figure 13).
Column graph, representing data for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can choose to display rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also choose to display data for persons, males, or females. The reader can choose to display hospitalisations or deaths. The default displays rate of hospitalisations for persons.
For more detail, see Data tables A4–6 and D4–6.
Areas of Australia which are more remote tend to have higher rates of hospitalisation and death from injury than less remote areas. People living in Very remote areas, compared with people living in Major cities, were:
Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.
The cause of injury with the largest difference in hospitalisation rates between remoteness areas was assault, with the rate for Very remote areas 20 times that of Major cities (Table 7).
All other causes
Age-standardised rates of death by cause of injury in Remote and Very remote areas need to interpreted with caution because of low numbers of deaths in some categories. In the case of the 520 transport accidents, the rate for those living in Very remote areas was 6.0 times the rate for Major cities.
For further detail see Data tables A7–9 and D7–9.
The highest rate of injury hospitalisations was among the 15–24 life-stage age group living in Very remote areas of Australia (Figure 14).
Column graph representing data for each of the 5 remoteness categories by 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can choose to display rate per 100,000 or number. The reader can also choose to display persons, males or females, and hospitalisations or deaths. The default shows rate of hospitalisations for persons.
For more detail, see Data tables A7–9 and D9–10.
For information on how the statistics were calculated by remoteness, see the technical notes.
Technical notes: how the data were calculated
Data tables: download full data tables
The first year of COVID-19 in Australia: direct and indirect health effects
Trends in hospitalised injury, Australia, 2007–08 to 2016–17
Trends in injury deaths, Australia, 1999–00 to 2016–17
Life expectancy and deaths (topic)
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