This article provides a brief overview of the prevalence of injuries received in the four weeks prior to the interview for the 2001 National Health Survey (NHS).
This survey collected information on the type of injury, the damage caused by the injury, the activity and location at the time of injury, the part of the body affected and the action taken. Risk factors, disabilities as a result of injury, hospitalisation, health system costs and mortality information are also discussed.
Unless otherwise stated, this article presents information sourced from the 2001 ABS NHS. It should be noted that the 2001 NHS excluded persons in hospitals, nursing and convalescent homes and hospices. The data from this survey relates only to persons in private dwellings. The article also draws on data from the 1998 and 2003 ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, the ABS Causes of Death collection and other ABS and non-ABS sources.
For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.
Injury prevention and control was first recognised as a national health priority for Australia in 1986. An injury is a trauma, poisoning or other condition of rapid onset to which factors and circumstances external to the person contributed significantly (AIHW & DHFS 1998).
AGE AND SEX
- The 2001 NHS indicated that 12% of the population (2.3 million persons) had sustained an injury in the previous four weeks.
- Males reported a higher prevalence of recent injury (13%) compared to females (11%).
- The age group most likely to sustain an injury within the previous four weeks was the 5-14 years age group (males 21%, females 16%).
PROPORTION OF PERSONS RECENTLY INJURED (a), 2001
- After adjusting for differences in age structure, the prevalence of injury in the four weeks prior to interview was similar for Indigenous males (12%) compared to non-Indigenous males (13%), as well as for Indigenous females (9%) compared to non-Indigenous females (11%).
TYPE OF INJURY EVENT
- The most common events which led to an injury in the four weeks prior to interview were falls of one metre or less (30% of all events) and collisions
- (19%) footnote 1.
- The proportion of males who received a recent injury from a collision (24% of all males with injuries) was much higher than the proportion of females (17% of all females with injuries). Injuries from bites or stings occurred more frequently to females (13% of all females with injuries) than males (8.1% of all males with injuries).
- Injuries from vehicle accidents which occurred in the four weeks prior to interview were most likely to occur in the 15-24 years age group (35% of all vehicle accidents).
- Recent injuries from falls of more than one metre were most likely to occur in the 5-14 years age group (38% of all falls of more than one metre), as were attacks by another person resulting in an injury (38% of all attacks by other persons) and injuries by bites or stings (24% of injuries from a bite or sting).
- The most common form of injury in the four weeks prior to interview was that of an open wound (44% of all persons with recent injuries). Open wounds were a more common form of injury for males (49%) than for females (38%).
- Nearly half (47%) of the 5-14 years age group who experienced an injury had an open wound. Bruising was also a common injury in this age group (41% of persons).
- The age group most likely to suffer dislocations, sprains or torn muscles/ligaments was the 15-24 years age group, where 29% of recently injured persons received these forms of injury.
- In the 65 years and over age group, the common forms of injury were that of an open wound (42% of persons) and bruising (33%).
ACTIVITY AT TIME OF INJURY EVENT
- Leisure activities were the most common activity being undertaken when a person was injured in the four weeks prior to interview (26% of all activities where an injury occurred).
- In the 5-14 years age group in the four weeks prior to interview, 51% of injuries occurred during leisure activities. Sports activities accounted for more than a quarter of the injuries (27%), while 17% of injuries received in this age group occurred while attending school.
- In persons aged 15 years and over, working for an income (31%) was the most common activity being undertaken when an injury occurred in the four weeks prior to interview.
ACTIVITY AT TIME OF INJURY (a), PERSONS AGED 15 YEARS AND OVER, 2001
PART OF BODY INJURED
- Nearly one half (45%) of persons who were injured in the four weeks prior to interview injured their legs or feet, while nearly one third (32%) of persons received injuries to the hands or fingers. Other common places of injury were arms and wrists (19% of persons) and the head (13%).
LOCATION AT TIME OF INJURY EVENT
- Persons who received recent injuries were most likely to experience them inside (26%) or outside (24%) their own or someone else's home.
- Females were nearly twice as likely to be inside their home or someone else's home when they had an injury (34%) compared to males (19%).
- Males were much more likely to be injured at a sports facility, athletics field or park (19%) compared to females (12%).
- Persons working for an income were injured in a variety of locations, such as commercial places (38%), industrial places (27%) and farms (6.7%).
- One third (29%) of those persons who received an injury in the four weeks prior to interview visited a doctor or other health professional regarding their injury. Only 8.7% of those injured and living in private dwellings visited a hospital.
- Of those who experienced a recent injury, 31% cut down on their usual activities because of the injury.
ACTION TAKEN AFTER AN INJURY EVENT (a), 2001
AREA OF RESIDENCE
- Although in 2001 only 33% of the population lived in areas other than major cities, 45% of those who reported recent injuries because of vehicle accidents lived in these areas, as did 45% of those who reported being attacked by another person, and 45% of those who experienced a bite or sting.
- Adults at high risk of long-term health problems due to alcohol consumption footnote 2 were nearly three times as likely as adults who did not consume alcohol to report one or more injuries in the four weeks before interview (15% compared to 5.5%) (ABS 2003).
- Drinking alcohol has been associated with risk of injury in many settings, including vehicle and cycling accidents, incidents involving pedestrians, falls, fires, sports and recreational injuries, and violence. The presence of alcohol in the body at the time of injury may also be associated with greater severity of injury and less positive outcomes (NHMRC 2001).
- As reported in the 2001 NHS, nearly one third (31%) of recently injured persons aged 15 years and over were injured while they were working for an income. Of all employed persons aged 15 years and over, 5% had received an injury in the four weeks prior to interview. This is in line with results from the 2000 Work-Related Injuries Survey, where 5% of persons aged 15 years and over who had worked at some time during the year ending September 2000 experienced a work-related injury or illness in that period (ABS 2001).
- More than half (51%) of persons in the 2001 NHS who received an injury while working for an income had injuries in the form of open wounds.
- Persons aged 18 years and over in the construction industry and the accommodation, cafes and restaurants industry reported the highest proportion of workers injured while working for an income (10% of those in the construction industry and 9.7% of those working in the accommodation, cafes and restaurants industry).
- Tradespersons and related workers (aged 18 years and over) were the occupation group most likely to be injured while working for an income (12%). The majority of these injuries occurred in three industries - the construction industry (31%), the manufacturing industry (20%) and the retail trade industry (19%).
- In the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, people reported that injuries, poisoning and other external causes were the reason for approximately 8% of all physical disabilities in both 1998 and 2003 (ABS 1999, ABS 2004a).
- One in 10 (9.9%) of those with a disability because of injury, poisoning and other external causes had a profound core-activity limitation footnote 3 in 2003, while 28% had a mild core-activity limitation. Nearly half (45%) reported having a schooling or employment restriction. Rates of limitations or restrictions for all persons with a physical disability were similar - 13% had a profound core-activity limitation, 28% had a mild core-activity limitation, and 41% reported a schooling or employment restriction (ABS 2004a).
- In 2002-03, there was less than one percentage point difference between the number of hospital separations due to cardiovascular disease (6.7%) and the number of hospital separations due to injury (6.6%) (AIHW 2004a).
- Same day separations accounted for 32% of all hospital separations in 2002-03 where injury was the principal diagnosis (AIHW 2004a).
HEALTH SYSTEM COSTS
- In 2000-01, 8.2% of total allocated health expenditure ($4.0 billion) was spent on persons who experienced injuries (AIHW 2004b).
- The majority of expenditure on injuries in 2000-01 took place in hospitals (70%), with 15% of expenditure being used on out-of-hospital medical expenses. Costs associated with professionals such as physiotherapists and chiropractors accounted for 7% of expenditure (AIHW 2004b).
- Falls accounted for 41% of expenditure on unintentional injuries in 2000-01. Adverse events in surgical or medical care, such as infections after treatment and inappropriate medication (18%) footnote 4, and road traffic accidents (11%) were the other major events leading to expenditure on unintentional injury (AIHW 2004b).
- Injuries due to homicide and violence accounted for 60% ($223.3 million) of total allocated health expenditure on intentional injuries in 2000-01 with $149.2 million (40%) being spent on suicide and self-inflicted injuries (AIHW 2004b).
- Deaths from external causes have decreased markedly over the last 30 years in Australia. Between 1972 and 1991, the leading external cause of death was motor vehicle accidents, but after 1991 the death rate from motor vehicle accidents became lower than the death rate from intentional self-harm (suicide) (ABS 2004b).
- There is a strong pattern of increasing mortality from injury with increasing remoteness, particularly for males (AIHW 1998).
TRENDS IN EXTERNAL CAUSES OF DEATH, AGE STANDARDISED RATES (a) - 1972-2002
1. Falls include slipping and tripping. Collisions refers to hitting something or being hit by something, but excludes vehicle accidents. <Back
2. Alcohol risk levels refer to harm in the long-term and assumes the level of alcohol consumption is typical. For more information see the Glossary in National Health Survey: Summary of Results, Australia, 2001, ABS cat. no. 4364.0. <Back
3. Core activities comprise communication, mobility and self care. <Back
4. Injuries from adverse events in surgical or medical care are particularly under-represented in the NHS due to the scope of the survey being restricted to private dwellings. <Back