Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Injury in Australia, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 06 October 2022.
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, 16 June 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 2022 Oct. 6]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/injury-in-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Injury in Australia, viewed 6 October 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/injury-in-australia
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Injuries are a major health care issue in Australia. In the latest years for which data was available, injuries accounted for:
In 2019–20, there were around:
527,000 injury hospitalisations
2,100 per 100,000 population
13,400 injury deaths
53 per 100,000 population
Most injuries, whether accidental or intentional, are preventable. This report divides injury hospitalisations and deaths 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.
In 2019–20, falls were the most common cause of both injury hospitalisations and injury deaths. The next most common causes for hospitalisations were contact with objects (including blunt or sharp objects) and transport accidents. For deaths, the next most common causes were suicide, accidental poisoning and transport accidents.
Each of these 15 main causes of injury is explored further on its own page.
For more detail, see data tables A1–3 and D1–3.
The total number of hospital admissions for injuries does not appear to vary much by month. Data for the three most recent years suggest slightly lower numbers during July to October and a dip in January.
From March 2020, the first restrictions associated with COVID-19 interrupted the routines of many Australians. Restrictions to movement and activity coincided with a marked drop in injuries, resulting in 14% fewer admissions from March to May than in the same period of the previous year (Figure 2). However as the first restrictions eased, injury admissions rose and by June were similar to previous periods.
For a discussion of the apparent impact of COVID-19 on admissions for specific causes, types and locations of injury, see the interactive COVID-19 display.
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.
The age-standardised rate of injury hospitalisations in 2019–20 was 1.9% lower than a year earlier. This decrease appears to be primarily due to the effects of COVID-19 restrictions.
By contrast, over the period from 2009–10 to 2016–17 there was an average annual increase of 1.5% in hospitalisations. There is a break in the time series between 2016–17 and 2017–18 due to a change in data collection methods (see Technical notes for more details).
For injury deaths, the age-standardised rate for 2019–20 was 4.4% lower than a year earlier. The average annual decrease in the rate between 2010–11 and 2019–20 was 0.1% (Figure 3). The rate for females had an average annual decrease of 0.7% over this period, whereas the rate for males had an average annual increase of 0.2%.
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 vary between males and females. The extent of this variation changes over the course of life – some causes of injury tend to have the greatest impact on younger males, while other causes are more likely to impact older females.
The following sections explore these differences in age and sex, in general first of all, and then considering specific causes.
Overall, males had higher rates than females for both injury related hospitalisation and death. For hospitalisations, males had higher rates until around age 70, but in older age groups female rates were higher. For deaths, male rates were higher for all age groups except for 0–4 year olds.
In 2019–20, 55% of injury hospitalisations were for males (287,700 cases) and 45% were for females (239,700 cases). Correspondingly, the age-standardised rate of injury hospitalisation was higher for males at around 2,200 per 100,000, compared with 1,700 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.
In 2019–20, comparing life-stage age groups:
For more detail, see Data tables A1–3 and D1–3.
Some causes of injury affect one sex more. Males had higher rates of injury hospitalisation in all causes except falls and intentional self-harm. Some causes, such as accidental poisoning, showed a relatively small difference, while others displayed a large bias towards one sex (Figure 5).
The largest differences in hospitalisation rate in 2019–20 were from:
Males had higher rates of injury death than females in every cause category. For males, the highest age-standardised rate was for suicide, while for females it was for falls.
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 due to the various causes occur in different proportions in each age group.
For injury hospitalisations in 2019–20:
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.
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. Using available data, three measures of the severity of hospitalised injuries are:
In 2019–20, the most severe injuries in terms of average number of days in hospital were due to falls (6.9 days), thermal causes (5.2 days), and transport accidents (4.7 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 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.
Over 12,400 injury hospitalisations (2.4% of all cases) involved a stay in an intensive care unit (ICU) in 2019–20. Undetermined intent and intentional self-harm were the causes 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 7,300 injury hospitalisations (1.4% of all cases) involved continuous ventilatory support in 2019–20. Most patients needing this level of support will be in an ICU.
Undetermined intent and intentional self-harm were also the causes most likely to result in continuous ventilatory support (Figure 8).
For more detail, see Data tables A12–13.
This section provides summary statistics firstly about the parts of the body injured in hospitalised cases, and secondly about the types of injury commonly sustained.
In 2019–20, the head and neck was the body part most often identified as the principal site of injury in hospitalisations (Figure 9). To some extent this may reflect the inherently serious nature of head and neck injuries.
Note: Body part refers to the principal reason for hospitalisation. Number and percentage of injuries classified as Other, multiple and incompletely specified body regions and Injuries not described in terms of body region not shown—see Data table A11.
The various causes tend to lead to different injury outcomes. Figure 10 shows the three most common body parts injured for some of the most common cause categories.
Proportional bar graph showing the most commonly injured body parts by cause for hospitalised cases. The bars represent 6 causes: falls, contact with objects, transport, assault, contact with living things and overexertion.
For more detail, see Data table A11.
The type of injury that a person sustains also tends to vary by cause.
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 11 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.
In 2019–20, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, there were over 30,500 injury hospitalisations and 520 deaths. Falls and assault were the two most common causes of injury 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 among Indigenous Australians were highest for the 25–44 age group (Figure 12).
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.
In 2019–20, Indigenous Australians, compared with non-Indigenous Australians, using age-standardised rates, were:
The cause of injury hospitalisations 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, and exposure to forces of nature were all 2 to 3 times as high as for non-Indigenous Australians (Table 3).
Note: Rates are age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population (per 100,000).
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 age-specific 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 12).
The visualisation features 2 matching column graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The columns represent 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 detail, see Data tables A4–6 and D4–6.
Areas of Australia which are more remote tend to have higher rates of injury hospitalisation and death than less remote areas. In 2019–20, people living in Very remote areas, compared with people living in Major cities, were:
Note: Rates are age-standardised per to the 2001 Australian population (100,000) population.
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database; AIHW National Mortality Database.
The cause of injury with the largest difference in hospitalisation rates between remoteness areas was assault, with the rate for Very remote areas 18 times that of Major cities (Table 6).
Source: AIHW National Mortality Database; AIHW National Hospital Mortality Database.
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 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 age-specific rate of injury hospitalisations was among the 15–24 life-stage age group living in Very remote areas of Australia. (Figure 13).
The visualisation features 2 matching column graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The columns represent 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 or number. The reader can also select to display data for persons, males or females.
For more detail, see Data tables A7–9 and D9–10.
For information on how statistics by remoteness are calculated, see 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 & deaths (topic)
This report aims to count and describe injury incidents that result in hospital admission/s and/or death.
Our counting method is different to some other AIHW reporting, where each use of a service may be counted (e.g. MyHospitals), rather than each causal incident. A single incident can lead to more than one use of a service. Our exclusion method minimises double-counting where possible.
If a person dies from an injury after being admitted to hospital, both the hospitalisation and the death were counted for this report.
The terms ‘injury hospitalisation’, ‘hospitalised injury’ and ‘hospitalised case’ in this report refer to incidents where a person was admitted to hospital with injury as the main reason. If a single incident led to an admission in more than one hospital, the incident has only been counted once. Details are in the Technical notes.
To avoid double-counting hospitalised injuries, we have excluded admissions that are transfers from another hospital and admissions with rehabilitation procedures (except for acute hospital admissions).
Emergency department (ED) care is a form of non-admitted hospital care and not counted here. See the AIHW MyHospitals topic for information on ED presentations due to injury.
Injuries caused by complications of surgery or other medical care, or injuries that are a subsequent condition caused by a previous injury, are not included in this report.
Month of admission data was produced to illustrate seasonal trends and the impact of COVID-19 restrictions after March of 2020. The sum of the monthly counts are slightly different than the annual totals used everywhere else for two reasons. Firstly, the monthly totals were adjusted to suit comparison between months of different length. Secondly, the annual totals used everywhere else are based on separations rather than admissions.
While death records have many of the same fields as hospital records, there are subtle differences in the way they are structured.
It’s not always possible to determine the main cause of death when multiple causes are involved. For this reason, a different selection criteria must be applied to reasonably identify where injuries played a role. As a result, each death where injury played a role has been counted once in the total for this report, but in some cases counted in more than one external cause category.
For details about methodology, see the Technical notes.
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