Health care—hospitals

Use of emergency departments

In 2016–17, there were 1.6 million emergency department (ED) presentations among people aged 65 and over—around one-fifth of the total 7.8 million presentations. In that year, people aged 85 and over accounted for almost 1 in 4 (23%) of all presentations for people aged 65 and over.

The 3 most common diagnoses that were recorded for ED presentations varied by age group (Figure 1). For presentations among people aged between 65–84, ‘Pain in throat and chest’ were the most common diagnoses recorded; for presentations among those aged 85 and over, ‘Other symptoms and signs involving the nervous and musculoskeletal systems’ was the most common diagnosis.


In 2016–17, people aged 65 and over accounted for 2.8 million same-day hospitalisations (42% of the total 6.6 million) and 1.8 million overnight hospitalisations (41% of the total 4.4 million).

The main reason that older people experienced a same-day hospitalisation in 2016– 17 was for ‘Care involving dialysis’. For overnight hospitalisations, the most common principal diagnoses among people aged 65 and over was ‘Other chronic obstructive pulmonary disease’.

In 2016–17, acute care (medical, surgical and other acute care) was the most common broad type of care older people received in hospital (90%), followed by rehabilitation (7%).

Most older people are discharged to their place of usual residence on leaving hospital. However, sometimes older people enter residential aged care after a period of hospitalisation. Excluding those whose usual place of residence was residential aged care, less than 2% of hospital separations (76,200 in 2016–17) for older people were to residential aged care.