Injury burden and spending

Burden of disease measures the impact of illness and injury through time spent in ill health and premature death. In 2023, the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2023 reported injuries as the 6th highest cause of total disease burden in Australia, accounting for around 8% of total burden (Disability-Adjusted Life Years, DALY). Most of the injury burden was due to premature death or fatal burden (Years of Life Lost, YLL) (82%), while 18% was due to years lived in ill health or with disability (non-fatal burden).

Seventy-two percent of the total burden due to injuries was experienced by males, while 28% was experienced by females. Injuries accounted for 10% of total fatal burden (YLL) for males, compared to 4.1% for females. The top 5 contributors to total injury burden (DALY) measured were suicide and self-harm, accounting for 35% of total injury burden, followed by falls (20%), poisoning (17%), road traffic injuries – motor vehicle occupants (7.7%), and other unintentional injuries (6.2%).

Spending on injuries is captured in the Disease Expenditure database, including costs from injury hospitalisations and treatment in primary care settings. In 2020-21, a total of $150.1 billion was allocated to health conditions, of which 7.3% ($10.9 billion) was spent treating and managing injury. The majority occurred in hospital settings ($8.8 billion, including private hospitals, emergency departments and outpatient clinics), with approximately $547 million occurring in general practice, $496 million in medical imaging and $137 million in Prescription Benefit Scheme (PBS) expenditure. These estimates may reflect greater data capture for hospital presentations in the disease expenditure analyses, as many injuries are treated in settings such as physiotherapy or sports medicine clinics, or self-managed, which may not be fully captured in these estimates.

Injury costs are reported by both the nature and cause of injury. By nature of injury most spending occurred for other injuries ($5.1 billion) followed by other fractures ($1.9 billion) and soft tissue injuries ($1.4 billion). In terms of the cause of injury, spending was highest for falls ($4.7 billion), other unintentional injuries ($2.9 billion), all other external causes of injury ($1.1 billion) and road traffic injury motor vehicle occupants ($479 million).