This report focuses on trends in hospitalised (serious) fall-related injury for people aged 65 and over that occurred over the period 2007–08 to 2016–17. Information is also presented on the hospital care provided.
Fall-related injury cases
An estimated 125,021 people aged 65 and over were hospitalised due to Falls in 2016–17. Three-quarters of all injury hospitalisations for people aged 65 and over are a result of a fall.
Women accounted for most of these fall-related injury cases, and rates of cases were higher for women than for men for all age groups 65 and over. Age-standardised rates of hospitalised fall-related injury cases increased over the period 2007–08 to 2016–17 for both men (a rate of increase of 3% per year) and women (2%).
For people aged 65 and over in 2016–17, injuries to the hip and thigh (22%) and head (26%) were the most common types of injury resulting from a fall. Rates of head injury were particularly high in Australians aged 85 and over. Fractures of the neck of the femur (also commonly called ‘hip fractures’) accounted for the majority of injuries to the hip and thigh (90%). Rates of injury to the head more than doubled over the period 2007–08 to 2016–17 for both men and women. In 2007–08, the rates of head injury among men and women were 469 and 477 cases per 100,000 population, respectively, compared with 832 and 865 cases per 100,000 in 2016–17.
The most common cause of fall-related injury cases for those aged 65 and over in 2016–17 was Fall on the same level from slipping, tripping and stumbling (34%). Falls from household objects (15% combined)—such as beds (5,417 cases); chairs (3,809 cases), stairs and steps (7,850 cases); and ladders (2,155 cases)—comprised the next largest proportion of cases.
Around 85% of fall-related injury cases in 2016–17 were recorded as having occurred in either the home or in residential aged care. The age-standardised rate of falls in the home for older people living in the community was 1,888 per 100,000 population, while the rate of falls for older people living in residential aged care was 11,403 per 100,000 population. These rates are likely to be underestimated, because of missing information on the places in which falls occurred.
Hospital care attributable to fall-related injury
In addition to the initial hospitalisations for these fall-related injury cases, there were more than 40,000 other fall-related hospital episodes (mainly for rehabilitation care) for people aged 65 and over in 2016–17. Taken together with the initial hospitalisation for a fall, there were 1.2 million days of patient care over the year, with the average total length of stay per fall-related injury case estimated to be 10 days. Overall, 1 in every 8 days spent in hospital by a person aged 65 and over in 2016–17 was attributable to an injurious fall.