This report describes a subset of injuries which could reasonably be associated with specific extreme weather events or related natural hazards that occurred between June 2012 and 2022. The technical notes section of this report details how injuries and weather-related causes have been selected in this analysis. This subset of injuries was selected due to challenges in ascertaining direct causality between weather events and injury records from existing administrative datasets. This report also discusses existing and potential data sources on weather-related injury in Australia, along with opportunities to improve systematically collected data. It has been informed by consultation with stakeholders within the AIHW and external experts.

National data indicates that 9,119 hospitalisations (from July 2012 to June 2022) and 677 deaths (from July 2011 to June 2021) from injuries were directly related to extreme heat, extreme cold, bushfires and rain or storms.

Heatwaves are historically Australia’s most dangerous natural hazard in terms of directly attributable loss of life (Coates et al. 2022; DAWE 2015) and create increased demand on the healthcare system (DEA 2016, Mason et al. 2022). Extreme heat accounted for 7,104 injury hospitalisations and 293 deaths in the 10-year period analysed in this report.

Although similar numbers of heatwave related hospitalisations occurred in El Niño and La Niña years, the number of injuries related to bushfires (a natural hazard associated with extreme heat) was higher in El Niño years. During the 2019–20 bushfires, in the week beginning 5 January 2020 there were 1,100 more hospitalisations than the previous 5-year average, an 11% increase. The greatest increase in the hospitalisation rate was 30% in the week beginning 15 December 2019—0.8 per 100,000 persons (about 210 hospitalisations), compared with the previous 5-year average of 0.6 per 100,000 (an average of 155 hospitalisations) (AIHW 2021).

348 injury hospitalisations and 77 deaths related to extreme rain or storms, and 773 injury hospitalisations and 242 deaths related to extreme cold, were identified in the 10-year period analysed in this report. When compared to other types of extreme weather in Australia, deaths due to storms and floods typically impact males and younger people (Peden et al. 2023). Age increased the likelihood of death from exposure to extreme cold (Peden et al. 2023)