Injury costs take toll on Australian health system

Accidental falls cost the Australian community $806 million a year in direct health system costs - more than double the health system costs for road traffic accidents, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Health System Costs of Injury, Poisoning and Musculoskeletal Disorders in Australia 1993-94 is the first systematic analysis of the total health system costs of different types of injuries and musculoskeletal disorders in Australia. It found that accidental falls represented almost one third of total health system costs related to injuries and poisoning. Falls in older people (aged 65 and over) account for just over one half of total fall costs.

AIHW's Principal Research Fellow, Dr Colin Mathers, said that adverse effects from medical treatment were the second most costly type of injury. 'This includes medical and surgical misadventure as well as adverse reactions to drugs in therapeutic use,' Dr Mathers said.

The top five external causes of injury that account for the most health expenditure are:

  • Accidental falls
$806 million (31% of total injury costs)
  • Adverse effects of medical treatment
$401 million (16%)
  • Road traffic accidents
$370 million (14%)
  • Homicide and violence
$124 million (5%)
  • Suicide and self-inflicted injury
$72 million (3%)

Dr Mathers said musculoskeletal disorders represented a huge burden to the Australian community, costing more than $3 million in 1993-94 - higher than that for injury and poisoning, and only 20% lower than the total health expenditure for cardiovascular disease.

'Back problems are the most costly of the musculoskeletal disorders,' Dr Mathers said. 'Back injuries cost an estimated $700 million a year, which is almost as large as expenditure on accidental falls or high blood pressure.'

Other findings in Health System Costs of Injury, Poisoning and Musculoskeletal Disorders in Australia 1993-94 include:

  • Oesteoarthritis is the second most costly type of musculoskeletal disorder, with health system costs of $624 million in 1993-94;
  • Costs of musculoskeletal disorders for women are around 38% higher than those for men, largely because of the high costs of these conditions for older women.


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