Approximately one-tenth of time spent in hospitals by people aged over 65 is directly attributable to falls, according to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Trends in hospitalisations due to falls by older people, Australia 1999-00 to 2010-2011, shows that over 92,000 people aged 65 and over were seriously injured due to a fall in 2010-11, and that the rate of fall injury cases has risen by about 2 per cent per year since 1999-2000.
“There were nearly 25,000 additional fall injury cases for older people in 2010-11 than there would have been if the rate of falls had remained stable since 1999-2000,” said AIHW spokesperson Professor James Harrison. “And the number of patient days in hospital for fall-related injuries doubled from 0.7 million in 1999-2000 to 1.4 million in 2010-11.”
The average total length of stay per fall injury case changed little over the period however, being around 15 days in most years.
Much of the rise reflects the growth of the over-65 age group, the population group at highest risk of falls. However, the rate of hospitalised falls also rose, though less steeply, after taking account of the ageing of the population. Seven in ten fall injury cases over the study period were recorded as having occurred in either the home or an aged care facility. Residents of aged care facilities had considerably higher rates of fall-related injury than the rates of falls at home by residents of the general community (9,226 per 100,000 people and 1,647 per 100,000 people respectively).
While both sets of rates increased significantly over the study period, the increase was much faster for residents of aged care facilities (around 5 per cent per year after age adjustment).
“While a clear explanation for this trend is not available, it may in part be due to the greater age and frailty of those in aged care facilities, as well as changes in data classification over time,” Professor Harrison said.
In contrast to the rise for fall-related hospitalisations, there was a drop in the rate of hip fractures due to falls (-1 per cent per year). It is estimated that there were about 2,800 fewer hip fracture cases involving people aged 65 and older in 2010-11 than there would have been if rate had remained stable since 1999-2000.
“The decrease in the age-standardised rate of hip fracture occurred mostly in the period 1999-00 to 2005-06. No change in the trend was seen from 2006-07, while rates of most other types of fall-related fracture rose over the study period,” Professor Harrison said.