Consequences of falls

Falls can have a variety of outcomes ranging from no injury or minor injury, to serious injury or death.  

Physical injuries can include:

  • pain
  • bruising
  • scratches and other superficial wounds
  • haematomas
  • lacerations
  • fractures
  • intracranial bleeding.

Even falls not resulting in physical injury can instil a fear of falling. This can result in:

  • self-imposed limitation of activity
  • commencing a cycle of decreasing functional ability.

A study of hospitalisations due to falls by older people in Australia was conducted. It showed patient days for hospital care, directly attributable to falls-related injury, doubled from 0.7 million patient days in 1999 to 2000 to 1.4 million patient days in 2010 to 11.

One in every 10 days spent in hospital by a person aged 65 and older in 2010 to 11 was directly attributable to an injurious fall. These episodes of care:

  • accounted for 1.4 million patient days over the year
  • had an average total length of stay, per fall injury, estimated to be 14.7 days.

In WA, falls accounted for a total of 585,532 hospital bed-days between 2000 and 2008.

The total cost of hospitalisations in this same period due to falls was $617.8 million. This equates to an average of $68.6 million per year.

As the population grows so too does the demand for health services. It is projected falls related injuries will cost the Western Australian health system $174 million in 2021, in the absence of:

  • effective prevention
  • lower treatment costs.

Falls that occur in hospital are associated with increased:

  • length of stay
  • use of health resources
  • rates of discharge to a nursing home.

Falls may be the first and main indication of another underlying condition in a patient.

People who fall once are 2 to 3 times more likely to fall again.

Falls resulting in fractures can be an indication of osteoporosis. A low trauma fracture warrants investigation for osteoporosis (external site). In particular, anyone aged 50 years and over who sustains a low trauma fracture (that is as a result of a slip, trip or fall from standing height or less) is at increased risk of further fractures.

For further information on WA’s approach to osteoporosis see the WA Osteoporosis Model of Care (PDF 1.6MB).


  • Schwendimann R, Buhler H, De Geest S, et al. Falls and consequent injuries in hospitalised patients; effects of an interdisciplinary falls prevention programme. BMC Health Serv Res 2006;6:69.
  • AIHW: Bradley C 2013. Trends in hospitalisations due to falls by older people, Australia 1999–00 to 2010–11. Injury research and statistics no. 84. Cat. no. INJCAT 160. Canberra: AIHW.
  • Watson W, Clapperton A, Mitchell R. The incidence and cost of falls injury among older people in New South Wales 2006/07. Sydney: NSW Department of Health, 2010.
  • Bates D, Pruess K, Souney P, et al. Serious falls in hospitalized patients: correlates and resource utilization. Am J Med 1995;99:137–43.
  • Hill KD, Vu M, Walsh W. Falls in the acute hospital setting—impact on resource utilisation. Aust Health Rev 2007;31(3):471–7.
  • Murray GR, Cameron ID, Cumming RG. The consequences of falls in acute and subacute hospitals in Australia that result in proximal femoral fracture. J Am Geriatr Soc 2007;55(4):577–82
  • Department of Health, Western Australia. Falls Prevention Model of Care. Perth: Health Strategy and Networks, Department of Health, Western Australian; 2014.
  • Department of Health, Western Australia. Post-Fall Management Guidelines in WA Healthcare Settings. Perth: Health Networks Branch, Department of Health, Western Australia. 2013.
  • Department of Health, Western Australia. Osteoporosis Model of Care. Perth:
  • Health Networks Branch, Department of Health, Western Australia; 2011.
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