How severe are alcohol-related injury hospitalisations?

Four measures that may indicate the severity of an injury hospitalisations are:

  • average length of stay
  • percentage of cases with time in an intensive care unit (ICU)
  • percentage of cases involving continuous ventilator support (CVS) (also called life support)
  • urgency of admission.

In 2019–20, alcohol-related injury hospitalisations were more severe than all injury hospitalisations for percentage of cases with time in an ICU or on CVS (Table 8).

Average length of stay

The average length of stay in hospital for an alcohol-related injury was 3.0 days (Table 8). This compares to an overall average length of stay for all injuries of 4.5 days (AIHW 2022). Average length of stay increased with age, with people aged 24 or under spending on average about 2 days in hospital compared to an average of 4.8 days for those aged 65 and over.  This pattern occurs for all injuries, where younger people stay fewer days in hospital than older people.  

Time in intensive care

In 2019–20, 6.9% of all alcohol-related injury hospitalisations involved time in ICU. This is much higher than for all injuries where 2.4% of hospitalisations involve time in ICU (Table 8) (AIHW 2022). A higher percentage of alcohol-related injury hospitalisations in ICU may be due in part to the high proportion of intentional self-harm cases. Among all injuries, intentional self-harm has the second highest percentage (12%) of cases with time in ICU (AIHW 2022).

Continuous ventilator support

In 2019–20, 5.4% of alcohol-related injury hospitalisations included CVS. These figures are higher than for all injuries (1.4%) (Table 8). This could be attributed in part to the greater proportion of intentional self-harm cases among alcohol-related injury hospitalisations. Among all injuries, intentional self-harm has the second highest percentage (9.5%) of cases with time on CVS (AIHW 2022).

Table 8: Percentage of alcohol-related injury hospitalisations with time in intensive care or on continuous ventilator support, 2019–20


Alcohol-related injuries

All injuries

Average length of stay (days)



Percentage (%) with time in ICU



Percentage (%) with time on CVS



Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Urgency of admission

Nearly all (99%) of alcohol-related injury hospitalisations were emergency admissions. Emergency admissions are those where it is deemed that the patient requires admissions within 24 hours, as opposed to non-emergency admissions such as elective (planned) admissions and cases where the urgency category was not stated.

For more detailed data, see Data tables A28–35.