Urgent action sought for annual $2.3b cost of falls

woman who has suffered a fall

Government and health organisations are being urged to act urgently to dramatically reduce the incidence of falls and turn the tide on a $2.3 billion healthcare burden.

A report from the Australian and New Zealand Falls Prevention Society (ANZFPS), titled Why investing in falls prevention across Australia can’t wait, delivers six key messages and five recommendations which it says could dramatically reduce the incidence of falls.

The key messages are:

  • Falls and fall injuries are a large and growing problem for all Australians.
  • Fall injuries in older adults already cost Australian healthcare systems $2.3 billion each year.
  • Fall injuries can be devastating for individuals and their loved ones.
  • There has been no national strategy on preventing falls in Australia for nearly 10 years.
  • Investing in effective prevention will provide quick returns for the health sector.
  • A well-implemented fall prevention strategy will enhance longer-term benefits for health, quality of life and independence of older Australians.

Read: Falls can be life-changing. Here’s how to prevent them

Professor Kim Delbaere, ANZFPS president, senior principal research scientist at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and co-author of the report, says there has been a gap in policy surrounding the life-threatening issue of falls for the best part of a decade.

“Since the National Injury Prevention and Safety Strategy 2004-2014 lapsed eight years ago, there’s been a policy gap on the life-threatening issue of falls affecting thousands of older people across the country,” she said.

Prof. Delbaere says falls are the leading cause of hospitalised injuries and injury deaths in people aged 65 and over and must be looked at as an urgent public health concern.

The impact of taking action would be almost immediate, she says.

Read: How you can help shape the future of ageing

“Strong evidence suggests that coordinated government action on falls prevention will have quick returns, with the potential for falls to be reduced by 30 per cent in just one year and long-term benefits for health, quality of life and independence of older Australians.”

ANZFPS is seeking a world-class national falls prevention strategy by 2025. It also wants long-term prevention programs to reduce falls by 30 per cent.

The report includes five recommendations to the federal government:

  1. Establish a national falls prevention coordination group, modelled on similar bodies  in the US and UK .
  2. Develop and implement a five-year national plan for preventing falls among older people living independently and in residential care.
  3. Engage all levels of government plus health and aged care, housing, transport, and planning and development sectors.
  4. Include fall prevention strategies for all people.
  5. Encourage greater investment in falls prevention research.

Read: Five ways to slow the ageing process

Report co-author Professor Cathie Sherrington says our ageing population is a key factor in the call for urgent action. “The ageing of the Australian population means that the problem of fall-related injuries and deaths will worsen if we continue to fail to take preventive action.

“Research has shown that there is one fall-related visit to an emergency department by an older Australian every two and a half minutes,” she said.

Recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that falls are the leading cause of hospitalisation due to injury in those aged 45 and older, representing 42 per cent of injury hospitalisations and 40 per cent of injury deaths.

In 2020-21, more than half of all falls leading to hospitalisation happened on a single-level surface (for example, by slipping or due to a collision), it says. Seven per cent of falls leading to hospitalisation involved stairs or steps.

Have you or someone close to you had a serious fall recently? What impact has it had? Did it result in a stay in hospital? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Written by 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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  1. He seems to be calling for more research and more groups to share concern.
    I thought all the research etc had already been done and what’s needed are concrete actions.
    There seems to be no plan to actually do anything.

  2. I’m 77 and suffer from Peripheral Neuropathy (PN), which means I have no feeling in my feet and legs below the knee … PN also affects one’s sense of balance and sufferers often experience many falls.
    I find the worst place in my house for falls to occur is the bathroom, but my idiot landlord (who, herself, is in her seventies and should know better) won’t allow us to install handles and other safety devices in the bathroom, as “it would affect the value of the house”.
    This it certainly would … it would INCREASE the value of the house!
    What the goverment needs to do is to legislate that every house in Austrlia should have handles and other safety devices installed as the law (the same as they have done with smoke alarms).
    Such legislation would be very simple to enact and would be much more helpful in reducing fall numbers than any of the talkfests proposed above. Keep it simple, stupid!

  3. Perfect example of what is wrong with finding solutions in Australia. The method is full of red tape and lengthy procedure and way too costly. This is how effective solutions work- 1. Identify action required. 2. Consider effects of actions on anything else. 3. Do it! Introduce solutions without a load of red tape and expense. That’s how you benefit most people. Not by setting up committees, arranging never-ending meetings, paying huge fees out of taxpayers money and taking years to implement. Get real people!

  4. In our local footpaths in front of numerous houses, a government agency or business has cut strips about 20cm wide out of the concrete to access water pipes or wires. Those strips have been replaced but now all sit 2 or 3cm below the level of the path, causing a hard-to-see trip hazard – NO care, NO responsibility! 😛

  5. I fell while getting to my husband’s car back at the end of July. My ankle got caught under the left front wheel and got broken. Spent two and a half months in the hospital and had three surgeries, so it was and still is a problem for me. I would be delighted if the govt would give me enough in my aged care package to do some repairs and changes around the house. I don’t want a fortune but some of the changes (e.g. a metre step lift) would be a big help. A ramp into the house (which I don’t need) costs $1000 per metre and has to be 7 metres long. The wastage is enormous. Anything you buy with the AG package has to be new! One can’t search for a step-lift second hand, a wheelchair secondhand….and the providers load their “fee” for paying for whatever you buy, on top of the cost. (sigh)

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