This report focuses on trends in hospitalised fall-related injury for people aged 65 and over that occurred over the period 2007–08 to 2016–17 using data from the National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD). The main topics addressed in this report are:
- an overview of hospitalised cases of injury due to falls by people aged 65 and over in 2016–17
- trends in hospitalised injury cases due to falls by people aged 65 and over, over the period 2007–08 to 2016–17
Falls are common among older people and can result in fractures, head injuries, other serious injuries and even death. In Australia, a study of older community care clients found that 45% had fallen in the previous year (Smith & Lewin 2008). A substantial proportion of falls involving older people result in hospitalisation (Hendrie & Miller 2004).
The cost to the health system due to fall-related injuries is considerable. The most comprehensive estimate of the national ‘lifetime’ cost of falls (including indirect costs such as costs borne by the family or community) exceeded $1 billion per year (Moller 2003). Moller’s study, however, is now over a decade old and more recent analyses suggest that $1 billion may be a considerable under-estimate. The AIHW report on hospitalised falls in 2007–08 conservatively estimated the cost of acute care alone—excluding rehabilitation and any ongoing detriments to health—due to falls by older people to be $648.2 million (Bradley 2012). Further, analysis of the cost of health care associated with falls by older people in New South Wales in 2006–07—about one-third of the Australian population— estimates a total cost of nearly $560 million (Watson et al. 2010). Most recently, in Western Australia, falls were found to account for 32.5% of fatal injuries, 32.5% of non-fatal hospitalisations, and $2.2 billion in costs (Hendrie et al. 2016).
From the AIHW’s 2015–16 Disease expenditure study, the estimated recurrent health service expenditure on falls was about $3.9 billion nationally (AIHW 2019a). The largest area of spending was public hospital admitted patient services ($1.6 billion, 40.5%) followed by private hospital services ($756.1 million, 19.5%) and public hospital emergency department services ($459.4 million, 11.8%).