Injuries from overexertion are typically the result of physical stress or overuse of the body. This can include from lifting heavy objects, repetitive movements, motion sickness, or lack of food or water.

In 2019–20, overexertion and related injuries caused:

14,200 hospitalisations

55 per 100,000 population

 14 deaths

0.1 per 100,000 population

This represents almost 3% of injury hospitalisations.

In males, the 25–44 age group had the highest risk, while in females, the 65 and over group had the highest risk.

Injuries from overexertion are represented by the ICD external cause codes X50–57. Overexertion and strenuous or repetitive movements account for almost all hospitalisations in this group.

This chapter summarises data on unintentional injuries. Intentional injuries and deaths are included under Self-harm injuries and suicide or Assault and homicide.

Deaths from overexertion injuries are rare, and are not discussed below.

Causes of hospitalisation

In 2019–20, almost all hospitalisations in this group were caused by overexertion and strenuous or repetitive movements (Table 1).

Table 1: Causes of injury in overexertion hospitalisations, 2019–20

Cause

Hospitalisations

%

Rate
(per 100,000)

Overexertion and strenuous or repetitive movements (X50)

14,111

99.7

55.3

Travel and motion (X51)

22

0.2

0.1

Lack of food or water, or other privation (X52–57)

18

0.1

0.1

Total

14,151

100

55.4

Notes

  1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population.
  2. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.
  3. Codes in brackets refer to the ICD-10-AM (11th edition) external cause codes (ACCD 2019).

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detail, see Data tables B23–24.

Seasonality and COVID-19

Hospital admissions for overexertion injuries do not appear to exhibit a strong seasonal pattern. Case numbers remain relatively steady throughout the year, with a minor dip over December and January.

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 coincide with a steep decline in hospitalisations for overexertion. This resulted in 30% fewer from March to May than the in same period of the previous year. As initial restrictions eased, hospitalisations began rising sharply in May and June, though they remained below previous levels (Figure 1).

See the interactive COVID-19 display for data and further discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on hospital admissions.

Figure 1: Overexertion injury hospitalisations by month, 2017–18 to 2019–20

Notes
1. Months have been standardised to 31 days.
2. A scale up factor has been applied to June admissions to account for cases not yet separated.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Variation by age and sex

Rates of hospitalisation from overexertion injuries vary between males and females over the life-stages (Figure 2). In 2019–20:

  • 57% of hospitalisations were for males
  • for males, the highest rate was in the 25–44 age group
  • for females, the highest rate was for those aged 65 and over
  • the age-standardised rates of hospitalisation were 63 cases per 100,000 males, and 45 per 100,000 females.

Figure 2: Overexertion injury hospitalisations, by age group and sex, 2019–20

The visualisation features a column graph for hospitalisations. 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.

Severity

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:

  • number of days in hospital
  • time in an intensive care unit (ICU)
  • time on a ventilator.

From calculations based on these, overexertion injuries appear to be less severe than the average for all hospitalised injuries in 2019–20 (Table 2).

Table 2: Severity of overexertion injury hospitalisations, 2019–20

 

Overexertion

All hospitalised injuries

Average number of days in hospital

2.6

4.5

% of cases with time in an ICU

0.3

2.4

% of cases involving ventilator

0.0

1.4

Note: Average number of days in hospital (length of stay) includes admissions that are transfers from one hospital to another or transfers from one admitted care type to another within the same hospital, except where care involves rehabilitation procedures.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detail, see data tables A12–13.

Nature of injuries sustained

In 2019–20, the hip and lower limbs was the body area most often identified as the principal site of injury in overexertion hospitalisations (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Overexertion hospitalisations, by principal body part injured, 2019–20

The visualisation features an outline of a person with labels for body parts accounting for hospitalisations due to overexertion. Injuries to the hip and leg accounted for the most hospitalisations, while the head and neck accounted for the fewest.

Note: Body part refers to the principal reason for hospitalisation. Number and percentage of injuries classified as Other, multiple and incompletely specified body regions or Injuries not described in terms of body region not shown—see Data table A11.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detail, see Data table A11.

Soft-tissue injuries were the most common type of injury for people who were hospitalised due to overexertion (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Overexertion hospitalisations, by type of injury, 2019–20

Bar graph showing type of injury sustained by category and by sex. Soft tissue injury was the most common for both males and females but 1.7 times as frequent for males as for females. Fracture was the second most common injury for both males and females. The reader can select to display either the crude rate per 100,000 population or the number of cases. The default display shows data for males and females, and the reader can also select to display for persons.

Visualisation not available for printing

For more detail, see Data table A10.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

In 2019–20, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  • there were over 560 hospitalisations (Table 3) and fewer than 5 deaths due to overexertion
  • males were 1.2 times as likely as females to be hospitalised
  • hospitalisation rates were highest among people aged 25–44 (Figure 5).
Table 3: Number and rate of overexertion injury hospitalisations, by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

      303

260

563

Rate (per 100,000)

71

61

66

Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

In 2019–20, Indigenous Australians, compared with non-Indigenous Australians, were 1.4 times as likely to be hospitalised due to overexertion (Table 4).

Table 4: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of overexertion injury hospitalisations, by Indigenous status and sex, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

79

73

77

Non-Indigenous Australians

62

44

53

Notes

  1. Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.
  2. ‘Non-Indigenous Australians’ excludes cases where Indigenous status is missing or not stated.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

The age-specific rate of overexertion hospitalisations was highest for the 25–44 age group for Indigenous Australians (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Overexertion injury hospitalisations, by Indigenous status, by age group and sex, 2019–20

The visualisation features a column graph for hospitalisations. 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–A6 and D4–D8.

Remoteness

In 2019–20 males living in Outer regional and Remote areas had the highest rates of hospitalisation due to overexertion (Table 5).

Table 5: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of overexertion injury hospitalisations, by remoteness and sex, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

59

42

51

Inner regional

72

49

60

Outer regional

79

52

66

Remote

81

58

70

Very remote

48

70

59

Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

The highest age-specific rate of overexertion hospitalisation cases was among the 15–24 age group living in Remote areas of Australia. (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Overexertion injury hospitalisations, by remoteness, by age group and sex, 2019–20

The visualisation features a column graph for hospitalisations. 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 population or number. The reader can also select to display data for persons, males or females.

For more detail, see Data tables A7–A9 and D9–10.

For information on how statistics by remoteness are calculated, see the Technical notes.

More information

Defining injury hospitalisations and deaths: how injuries were counted

Technical notes: how the data were calculated

Data tables: download the full tables

Glossary