Injuries caused by contact with living things include bites, stings and envenomation from animals, insects and plants, along with unintentional person-to-person contact—such as while playing sport.

Injuries caused by contact with living things resulted in:

29,900 hospitalisations in 2020–21

117 per 100,000 population

 22 deaths in 2019–20

0.1 per 100,000 population

This represents 5.2% of injury hospitalisations and 0.2% of injury deaths.

In medical coding terms, this topic includes exposure to animate mechanical forces, contact with venomous animals and plants and exposure to or contact with allergens: allergy to animals.

Because of the low number of deaths from contact with living things, they are not described further below.

This category only includes unintentional injuries. Intentional harm is included under Assault and homicide.

Causes of hospitalisation

In 2020–21:

  • Contact with non-venomous animals was the top cause (57%) of hospitalisations in this category (Table 1). Of these, 53% involved dogs (Table 2)
  • person-to-person contact accounted for 31% of hospitalisations in this category (Table 1)
  • of hospitalisations involving venomous animals, spiders were the most common (27%) (Table 3).
Table 1: Causes of injury hospitalisations due to contact with living things, 2020–21

Cause

Hospitalisations

%

Rate (per 100,000)

Contact with non-venomous animals (W53–59, W61)

17,038

57

66

Unintentional person-to-person contact (W50–52)

9,137

31

36

Contact with venomous animals and plants (X20-29)

2,452

8

9.6

Allergy to animals (Y37.6)

639

2.1

2.5

Contact with plants (W60)

479

1.6

1.9

Other and unspecified (W64)

204

0.7

0.8

Total

29,949

100

117

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).
4. Person-to-person contact includes being hit, struck, kicked, twisted, bitten or scratched by another person, striking against or bumping into another person, and being crushed, pushed or stepped on by crowd or human stampede. Injuries involving a fall because of a collision with or pushing by another person are not included. See Falls.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 2: Non-venomous animals involved in injury hospitalisations, 2020–21

Type of animal

Hospitalisations

%

Rate (per 100,000)

Dogs (W54)

9,079

53

35

Other mammals (W55)

5,118

30

20

Non-venomous snakes, lizards and other reptiles (W59)

1,952

11

7.6

Non-venomous insects and arthropods (including spiders) (W57)

591

3.5

2.3

Non-venomous marine animals (excluding crocodiles) (W56)

218

1.3

0.8

Birds (W61)

37

0.2

0.1

Rats (W53)

25

0.1

0.1

Crocodiles and alligators (W58)

18

0.1

0.1

Total

17,038

100

66

Notes
1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population.
2. Percentages and rate may not sum  to total 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.

Table 3: Venomous animals involved in injury hospitalisations, 2020–21

Type of venomous animal

Hospitalisations

%

Rate (per 100,000)

Spiders (X21)

650

27

2.5

Snakes (X20)

521

21

2.0

Bees and wasps (X23)

474

19

1.8

Others (X22, X24–X29)

807

33

3.1

Total

2,452

100

9.6

Notes
1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population.
2. Percentages may not sum  to total due to rounding.
4. 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 B19–20.

Seasonal differences

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 (Figure 1).

In March 2020, COVID-19 restrictions interrupted the usual activity of Australians. These restrictions coincided with a marked drop in overall injury hospitalisations. For injuries due to contact with living things, there were 28% fewer admissions from March to May 2020 than in the same period of the previous year.

The interactive display illustrates other seasonal differences in injury hospitalisations.

Figure 1: Seasonal differences in hospitalisations due to contact with living things, 2018–19 to 2020–21

Notes
1. Admission counts have been standardised into two 15-day periods per month.
2. A scale up factor has been applied to June admissions to account for cases not yet separated.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Trends over time

The age-standardised rate of hospitalisations due to contact with living things in 2020–21 was 19% higher than the previous year. The previous year had seen a drop in injury hospitalisations most likely caused by COVID-19 restrictions (Figure 2).

Over the period from 2011–12 to 2016–17 there was an average annual increase of 3.2% for the age-standardised rate of hospitalisations.

There is a break in the time series for hospitalisations between 2016–17 and 2017–18, due to a change in data collection methods (see the technical notes for details).

Figure 2: Injury hospitalisations due to contact with living things, by sex and year

Timeline graph for hospitalisations. 3 lines represent the trend for males, persons and females over 10 years. The reader can choose to display rate per 100,000 population or number.

Visualisation not available for printing

Age and sex differences

Rates of injuries caused by contact with living things differ for males and females and across age groups. In 2020–21:

  • 58% of the hospitalisations were for males
  • the age-standardised rates of hospitalisation were:
    • 139 cases per 100,000 males, and
    • 98 per 100,000 females
  • young people aged 15–24 had the highest rate of hospitalisation, for both males and females (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Injury hospitalisations and deaths due to contact with living things, by age group and sex, 2020–21

Column graph representing sex within 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can choose to display either rate per 100,000 population or number. The default displays rate of hospitalisations for males and females and the reader can also choose to display persons, and to display deaths.

For more detail, see Data tables B19–20.

Severity

There are many ways that the severity, or seriousness, of an injury can be assessed. Some of the ways to measure the severity of hospitalised injuries are:

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

Injuries due to contact with living things appear less severe than the average for all hospitalised injuries (Table 4).

Table 4: Severity of hospitalised injuries due to contact with living things, 2020–21
 

Contact with living things

All injuries

Average number of days in hospital

2.0

4.4

% of cases with time in an ICU

0.5

2.2

% of cases involving continous ventilatory support

0.1

1.2

In-hospital deaths (per 1,000 cases)

0.3

5.3

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 A13–15.

Types of injury sustained

In 2020–21, the wrist and hand was the body part most often identified as the main site of injury in hospitalisations caused by contact with living things (32%), followed by the head and neck (21%) (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Hospitalised injuries due to contact with living things, by main body part injured, 2020–21

Hover over a body part for more information:

Outline of a person with labels for body parts accounting for hospitalisation due to contact with living things. Injuries to the wrist and hand accounted for the most hospitalisations while the trunk (including spine, abdomen, and pelvis) accounted for the fewest.

Visualisation not available for printing

Notes

  1. Main body part refers to the principal reason for hospitalisation.
  2. ‘Trunk’ includes thorax, abdomen, lower back, lumbar spine & pelvis.
  3. Number and percentage of injuries classified as Other, multiple, and incompletely specified body regions and Injuries not described in terms of body region not shownsee Data table A11.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detail, see Data table A11.

Open wounds were the most common type of injury for people who were hospitalised due to contact with living things, followed by fracture (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Hospitalised injuries due to contact with living things, by type of injury, by sex, 2020–21

Bar graph showing type of injury sustained by category and by sex. Fracture was the most common for both males and females, followed by open wound. The reader can choose to display either the crude rate per 100,000 population or the number of cases. The default display shows data for males and females, or the reader can choose to display for persons.

For more detail, see Data table A10.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

In 2020–21, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  • there were almost 2,100 hospitalisations due to contact with living things, with the rate for males 1.6 times as high as for females (Table 5)
  • hospitalisation rates were highest in the 25–44 and 15–24 age groups, compared with other age groups (Figure 6).
Table 5: Hospitalisations due to contact with living things by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2020–21

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

1,290

805

2,095

Rate (per 100,000)

299

187

 243

Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

In 2020–21, Indigenous Australians, compared with non-Indigenous Australians, were 2.1 times as likely to be hospitalised due to contact with living things (Table 6).

Deaths are not compared here because of low numbers.

Table 6: Age-standardised rates of injury hospitalisation (per 100,000) due to contact with living things by Indigenous status and sex, 2020–21

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

290

 191

 241

Non-Indigenous Australians

133

93

113

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.

Figure 6: Injury hospitalisations due to contact with living things, by Indigenous status, by age group and sex, 2020–21

Column graph representing hospitalisation data for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 6 life-stage age groups. For each age group, the reader can choose to display rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also choose to display data for persons, males or females.

For more detail, see Data tables A4–6.

Remoteness

In 2020–21, people living in Australia’s Very remote areas, compared with people living in Major citieswere 3 times as likely to be hospitalised due to contact with living things (Table 7).

Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Table 7: Age-standardised rates of injury hospitalisation (per 100,000) due to contact with living things, by remoteness and sex, 2020–21
 

 Males

 Females

 Persons

Major cities

            116

               81

               99

Inner regional

            173

             134

             154

Outer regional

            222

             138

             181

Remote

            314

             202

             260

Very remote

            355

             235

             298

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

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

The highest age-specific rate of injury hospitalisation due to contact with living things was among the 15–24 age group living in Remote areas of Australia. (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Injury hospitalisations caused by contact with living things, by remoteness, by age group and sex, 2020–21

This column graph shows hospitalisations data for each of the 5 remoteness categories by 6 life-stage age groups. For each age group, the reader can choose to display rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also choose to display data for persons, males or females.

For more detail, see Data tables A7–9.

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

Data details

Technical notes: how the data were calculated

Data tables: download full data tables

Glossary