This report is the fifth in a series of reports on hospitalisations due to falls by older people in Australia. It focuses on hospitalised falls that occurred in the financial year 2008–09.

Falls in 2008–09

The estimated number of hospitalised injury cases due to falls in people aged 65 and over in 2008–09 was 78,600, more than 4,000 more cases than in 2007–08.

Females accounted for most of the hospitalised fall injury cases and rates of fall cases were higher for females than for males for all age groups. For the first time in this report series, the age-standardised rate of hospitalised fall injuries involving older females exceeded 3,000 per 100,000 population.

About one-third of fall injury cases had injuries to the hip and thigh, and the majority of these were hip fractures. Head injuries accounted for about one in five cases and were more common for males than for females.

Circumstances of falls

As in previous years, a fall on the same level due to slipping, tripping and stumbling was the most common cause of a hospitalised injury while 'other fall on same level' was the second most commonly recorded cause for fall injury cases.

About 70% of hospitalised falls in 2008–09 were recorded as having occurred in either the home or an aged care facility. Most falls in the home were recorded as having occurred in 'other and unspecified' places in the home (52%), although outdoor areas of the home, the bathroom and the bedroom were also common places of occurrence reported for hospitalised falls.

Hospital care

One in every ten days spent in hospital by a person aged 65 and older in 2008–09 was directly attributable to an injurious fall. These episodes of hospital care used 1.2 million patient days over the year and the average total length of stay per fall injury case was estimated to be 15.8 days.

Trends in hospitalised fall-related injury 1999–2009

Age-standardised rates of hospitalised fall-related injury separations have increased over the decade to June 2009, despite a decrease in the rate of hip fractures due to falls.

We estimate that nearly 11,000 more fall injury cases for people aged 65 and older were admitted to hospital in 2008–09 than would have been if the age-standardised rate had remained stable since 1999–00.

Falls resulting in head injuries increased at a particularly high rate over the study period, as did falls described as 'other falls on the same level'. Further, the rate of fall injury transfers and the rate of fall-related follow-up care separations have significantly increased over the study period, as has the rate of patient days used for episodes of fall-related hospital care.