Alarming report reveals how older men end up in hospital

Content warning: This article contains information some readers may find distressing as it refers to self-harm and suicide

New Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data reveals that adult men have the highest risk of hospitalisation through injury, and that those aged 75 and over are most likely to present at hospital.

The data is contained in a report released today by the AIHW – Injuries affecting men in Australia: A closer look. It shows adult men made up more than half of the injury hospitalisations and emergency department injury presentations in 2021–22.

While men aged 19-24 had the highest rate of emergency department (ED) presentation, it was men over 75 who were more likely to require a stay in hospital.

Regardless of age, men are more likely than women to end up at an ED or in hospital due to injury than women. The report shows adult males accounted for 56 per cent of the overall hospital presentations.

Why more men over 75 require hospitalisation

Given that women remain underrepresented in the trade industry, the high ED presentation figure for younger men is probably unsurprising. The AIHW report showed that many of the presentations resulted from work-related incidents. 

AIHW spokesperson Dr Sarah Ahmed expanded on this in a statement accompanying the release of the report. “Contact with tools and machinery represented 30 per cent of injuries from contact with objects in men,” she said.

Men of a slightly older age were also at risk, said Dr Ahmed. Contact with tools and machinery was also the leading cause of object-related injury in men aged 45 and over. “Men were over three times more likely than women to be hospitalised for injuries caused by contact with objects.”

But what about older-aged men? Many older men still use tools and machinery, and this accounts for some of their hospital presentations. But the chart below provides the clearest evidence of the main cause.

Of the lines below representing causes of hospital presentations, one stands out. The black line that takes a sharp upward turn represents falls. Once we hit 65, the chances of a fall landing us in hospital increase significantly. Beyond age 75, the chances skyrocket, relative to other age groups.

What else does the AIHW report tell us?

Older men are also the most likely to die as pedestrians in road accidents. The fatality rate for pedestrians was highest in men aged 75 or older. The rate of 4.2 deaths per 100,000 for that age group is triple that of men aged 65-74 (1.4 deaths per 100,000). Younger age brackets had a death rate of 1.1 per 100,000 or lower.

One alarming revelation to come from the report was the rate of death by suicide in older men. While the raw figures for men are quite low, the ‘per capita’ data tells a different story. Men aged 75 are the most likely of all age groups to die by their own hand, with a rate of 26.4 deaths per 100,000. This is a higher rate than men aged 45-54 (25.6 per 100,000) and men aged 25-44 (24.1). Notably, men aged 65-74 are significantly less likely to die through self-harm, at a rate 17.6 deaths per 100,000.

What can we do with this AIHW data?

Governments, both federal and state, can use this data to frame policies for reducing injuries leading to hospitalisations and death. As individuals, Australians can use the AIHW report to identify potential risks relevant to them, or someone close to them.

The full AIHW report can be viewed here.

Have you had a look through the AIHW report? Were you surprised by any of the findings? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: Neurological conditions fuel rise in deaths

Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide and depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. For more information on treating depression, please visit Beyond Blue.

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.
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