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Hospitalized head injuries among older people in Australia, 1998/1999 to 2004/2005


Objective: To explore rates of hospitalized head injury among older Australians by a range of risk indicators.

Design: Head injury data for 60+-year-olds were obtained from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Hospital Morbidity Database from 1998/1999 to 2004/2005. Poisson regression modeling was used to examine head injury rates in relation to age, sex, Indigenous status, location, and injury type.

Results: Rates of hospitalized head injury among the older population increased 1.4-fold between 1998/1999 (582.8 per 100 000) and 2004/2005 (844.3 per 100 000) (p<0.001). Those aged 85+ years had 10.8 times the rate of their 60–64-year-old counterparts (95% CI 10.6 to 11.0) after adjustment for other covariates. Men had 1.1 times the rate of women (95% CI 1.1 to 1.2), and those living in rural/remote areas had 3.1 times the rate of their metropolitan-dwelling counterparts (95% CI 3.0 to 3.1). Those identifying themselves as Indigenous had 1.7 times the rate of non-Indigenous persons (95% CI 1.6 to 1.8). The most prevalent injuries were open wounds of the head (38.0%), followed by superficial injuries (24.7%) and intracranial trauma (18.3%). Falls accounted for 81.4% of all head injury admissions.

Conclusions: The oldest old were disproportionately represented among those sustaining hospitalized head injuries, along with men, those living in rural/remote areas, and Indigenous persons. Given the increasing proportion of older people in Western societies and the costs of treating hospitalized head injuries, the ability to reduce risk of such trauma in this age group is of critical public health importance.

  • head injury
  • hospitalizations
  • older people
  • rural
  • indigenous

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