Outdoor injuries on the rise as Aussies head into summer

With the official start to summer just around the corner, many Australians will be looking forward to spending more time outdoors and socialising with family and friends. However, the warmer months and summer holidays are also associated with an increase in the number of hospital admissions for certain types of injuries.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) today released Injury in Australia 2020–21, which shows there were around 1,600 injury-related hospitalisations every day, a 7% increase from 1,500 a day in 2018–19 prior to COVID. The report examines injuries which required admission to hospital but does not include injuries where a person attended an emergency department without a hospital admission.

‘Over the summer months, we see a peak in certain causes of injury. These include transport-related injuries (3,100 in late January 2021, compared to 2,500 in early June 2021), weather-related injuries (125 hospital admissions in late November 2020, compared to 6 in early July 2020) and drownings and submersion injuries (65 hospitalisations in late January 2021, compared to 9 in early June 2021),’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr. Adrian Webster (PhD).

For people considering undertaking DIY projects during the summer holidays, it is worth noting that during 2020–21 (not just summer) there were 6,600 hospitalisations due to falls on or from ladders and 17,500 due to contact with tools or machinery.

‘Sadly, there is a peak in hospitalisations for assault over the summer months. There were 1,200 assault-related hospital admissions in late December 2020, compared to 770 in late June 2021,’ Dr. Webster said.

Throughout 2020–21, there were 23,000 hospitalisations due to assault*, most of these involved male victims (62%). Where the victim was female, 49% reported being assaulted by a spouse or domestic partner, compared to only 4% of males. Rates of assault requiring hospitalisations were highest for people in the 15–24 and 25–44 age groups. For more information, go to Family, domestic and sexual violence data in Australia on the AIHW’s website.

Most injuries, whether accidental or intentional, are preventable, yet they remain a major cause of hospitalisation and death in Australia.

The number of injury hospitalisations rose by 9% from 527,000 in 2019–20 to 575,000 in 2020–21, and there were 13,400 deaths due to injuries in 2019­–20. The top 3 causes of hospitalisation for injury in 2020–21 were falls, contact with objects and transport accidents. These remained unchanged from the previous period.

‘Injury hospitalisations from contact with living things in 2020–21 were 19% higher than the previous year. This is likely due to increases in outdoor activity following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions,’ Dr Webster said.

Injuries caused by contact with living things includes bites and stings from animals, insects and plants, along with unintentional person-to-person contact—such as while playing sport. They resulted in 29,900 hospital admissions in 2020–21, representing 5.2% of total injury hospitalisations.

Hospital admissions due to contact with living things display a minor seasonal pattern, with peaks in summer and autumn before a low from July to October.

The top cause of these hospitalisations was contact with non-venomous animals, comprising almost 2 in 3 (57%) of hospitalisations. Of hospitalisations involving venomous animals, spiders were the most common (27%).

Over the winter months, common reasons for injury hospitalisations include winter sports (such as AFL and soccer) and thermal-related causes (such as exposure to smoke, fire and flames; contact with hot substances and heat sources).

Almost 4 in 10 (37%) thermal-related injury hospitalisations occurred over the colder months with 290 hospitalisations in late May 2021, compared to 185 in early February 2021.

Over half (52%) of injury hospitalisations in a sports or athletic setting occurred over the colder months. There were 1,500 hospitalisations in early May 2021 compared to 990 in later July 2020.

Today’s report includes an interactive display showing how hospitalisations for injury change over the seasons.

* The hospital stays included in this report relate to more severe experiences of assault. They do not include presentations to emergency departments or other health services.

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