Definition of Falls
A fall is defined as an event which results in a person coming to rest inadvertently on the ground or floor or other lower level.1
Impact of Falls on Western Australia
Who does it impact?
In Western Australia:11
- in 2016, there were 336 falls-related fatalities
- in 2017, there were 26,338 falls-related hospitalisations
- in 2017, there were 43,408 falls-related metropolitan emergency department attendances.
In Western Australia between 2011 and 2015, there were 1,165 deaths due to falls.2
In Western Australia between 2011 and 2015 there were:2
- 119,413 hospitalisations due to falls.
- 55% of hospitalisations for falls were females.
- people aged 65+ years had the highest incidence of falls.
In Western Australia Aboriginal People make up 3.1% of the population, however between 2011 and 2015 5.19% of falls hospitalisations were Aboriginal People.2,3
Where does it occur?
In Western Australia, between 2011 and 2015, the three regions with the highest difference in regional hospitalisation rates compared to the WA State hospitalisation rate, were the Kimberley (115% higher), Midwest (20% higher) and Wheatbelt (15% higher).2
Impact on the health system
In Western Australia in 2017 there were 26,338 falls-related hospitalisations which consumed 157,738 bed days at an approximate cost of $223,524,324.11
In Western Australia in 2015, there were 23,870, hospitalisations for falls, consuming an estimated 157,259 bed days at an approximate cost of $197,632,284.2
Determinants of Falls (Risk / Protective Factors)
Income and socioeconomic status
Research has associated lower socioeconomic status with an increased risk of falls due to factors such as education, income and employment status influencing an individual’s falls prevention knowledge.1 A lack of opportunities to participate in social activities and low levels of social support can also increase the individual’s risk of falling.
Environmental, Community and Organisational Determinants
There are a range of environmental hazards that have the potential to increase an individual’s risk of falling including stairs, loose rugs and cords, poor lighting, furniture height, uneven surfaces and slippery floor surfaces.1
Falls among children under the age of 10 years mostly occur in the home due to hazards such as nursery furniture, baby walkers, tables, beds and playground equipment.1
Behavioural and Individual Determinants
An individual’s risk of falls is increased when wearing footwear that has no support, has worn soles, heels or a slippery surface.5
Vision related factors including reduced contrast sensitivity, reduced depth perception and reduced visual field can increase an individual’s risk of a fall.1
Muscle weakness and pain when walking can have a negative impact on an individual’s mobility. This places them at a higher risk of falls due to their negative effect on postural sway, gait velocity, stride length, step height, reaction time, visual acuity and depth perception.5
Medical conditions that decrease an individual’s physical and mental functioning, including Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, depression, stoke, visual and auditory impairments, osteoporosis and dementia have been associated with an increased risk of falling.5
Specific drugs including antipsychotics, antidepressants and benzodiazepines have been connected to an increased risk of falling. Also, the use of multiple medications (polypharmacy), inappropriate prescribing, misuse and inappropriate dosage can influence an individual’s risk of falling.5
History of falling
If an individual has experienced a fall they are at a higher risk of having another fall in the future. This increased risk has been associated with a fear of falling, a lack of confidence in the individual’s ability to carry out everyday activities and the negative impact that the fear of falling can have on the individual’s activity levels, which can further increase the individual’s risk of falling.5
Age and gender
A child’s age and development stage influences the activities and environments where falls injuries occur as well as the characteristics of injuries.1 Young Western Australian males aged 0-14 years have a 50% higher rate of falls injuries compared to females of the same age group, which can be associated to the gender difference in their physical and psychosocial development, patterns of child-rearing, socialisation and the amount of risk taking behaviours.8 In Western Australia the rate of hospitalisations and deaths due to falls is at the highest level among people over 65 years of age.3
Legislation, Policies, Standards and Codes of Practice
In Australia, legislation for older people can be divided into two areas; community welfare and nursing home, and retirement village regulation. Despite falls prevention programs falling across both areas, there is currently no legislation in Western Australia that directly addresses falls prevention in older people.5
The Federal Government established the National Falls Prevention for Older People Initiative, which focuses on reducing the incidence, morbidity and mortality relating to falls in people aged 65 and over.5
In 1996 the Australian Health Ministers, in recognition of the negative impact that injury was having on the nation, endorsed Injury Prevention and Control as a National Priority Area.1
Australian standards for falls amongst children
There are a number of Australian Standards that aim to support the minimisation of injury risk to children, including the following standards;5
- Playground Equipment for Parks, Schools and Domestic Use
- Playground Surfacing Specifications, Requirements and Test Methods
- Playgrounds and Playground Equipment: Development, Installation, Inspection, Maintenance and Operation
- Fixed Platforms, Walkways, Stairways and Ladders – Design, Construction and Installation
- Bunk Beds and Cots of Household Use – Safety Requirements
- High Chairs, Prams and Strollers – Safety Requirements
- Pedal Cycle Helmets.
Environmental, Community and Organisational Initiatives
Falls prevention campaigns
A falls prevention campaign that includes a number of elements targeting falls risk factors and involves professionals from a range of health services is recommended.5 Evidence also supports falls prevention campaigns that are developed to match their target audience, with the differentiation of community dwelling, residential aged care and acute care based individuals.5
Falls prevention programs in the community
Falls prevention programs that outline the importance of identifying any falls risks as soon as possible, how falls risk factors can be minimised and highlights the importance of referring to other specialist services if required, all contribute to successful organisational and health service initiatives.5
Western Australian example
Stay On Your Feet WA® is a falls prevention program that aims to promote healthy, active ageing in Western Australia to reduce falls among older people. The program does this by raising awareness of the risk factors for falls in older people with community members, health professionals and other service providers.
Western Australian example
‘Have a Go Day’ is a community initiative that supports lifelong physical activity.5 As part of The Department of Sport and Recreation’s support of seniors’ involvement in sport and recreation they sponsor ‘Have a Go Day’.
Falls Prevention programs in primary health care and other health services
Due to the impact that the number of medications prescribed to an individual has on an individual’s risk of falling, initiatives within health services that centre on; improving prescribing practices, reducing the incidence of polypharmacy, reducing vitamin D deficiencies and advocating for falls prevention, would assist towards reducing the impact that medication intake is having on falls.5
Western Australian example
Within the residential aged care setting a range of falls prevention programs have been implemented by the overarching organisation. Falls risk assessments, physical activity, medication review and environmental modifications are common aspects of the programs.5
Falls prevention programs in hospitals
A specific hospital initiative that works towards reducing the rate of falls is the instillation and active use of patient bed alarms that notifies hospital staff when patients who require assistance to leave their beds are attempting to leave their bed without assistance.5 Staff education and training programs that encourage individual falls prevention actions are a key component towards an effective falls prevention initiative.
Western Australian example
Specialty medical clinics in falls, falls prevention education classes and home-based Falls Risk Assessments and Falls Prevention Programmes are provided by Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.5 The initiatives run by Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital target their staff, patients and community members.
Group and Individual Initiatives
On an individual level there are a number of actions that can be taken to decrease falls risk including; wearing safe footwear, getting eyesight checked regularly, making homes safer by removing hazards, building their balance, strengthening legs, regularly getting medications checked, keeping a health mind and ensuring that their body is receiving the nutritional intake that it requires.1
Western Australian example
As falls in children are the cause of many child injuries, Kidsafe WA focus on this as part of their safety awareness. Kidsafe WA run a Safety Demonstration House and Resource Centre in Perth, which displays situations around the house that could be hazardous for young children and a range of prevention methods that individuals can implement to reduce the risk of injury.5
Key stakeholders in Western Australia
Council on the Ageing
Department of Health Falls Prevention Health Network
Department for Local Government and Communities
Silver Chain Nursing Association of Australia
Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital
Stay On Your Feet®
The Department of Sport and Recreation WA
1 World Health Organization. (2012). Falls. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs344/en/
2 Data generated using HealthTracks Reporting, by the Epidemiology Branch, WA Department of Health in collaboration with the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial
Information (CRC-SI), October 2017.
3 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, ‘Western Australia, People’, viewed 5 September 2017,
4 Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). Prevention Injury. Retrieved from http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/healthpromotion/wihpw/priority_areas/preventing_injury
5 Arena, G., Cordova, S., Gavine, A., Palamara, P. & Rimajova, M. (2002). Injury in Western Australia: a review of best practice, stakeholder activity, legislation and recommendations. Perth: Injury Research Centre, The University of Western Australia.
6 Pointer, S. (2014). Hospitalised injury in children and young people 2011 – 12. Injury research and statistics series. 91(1). Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
7 Fall Prevention Centre of Excellence. (2012). Falls and vision loss. Retrieved from www.stopfalls.org/grantees_info/files/FallsVision1.pdf
8 Peden, M. et al. (2008). World report on child injury prevention. World Health Organization. UNICEF. Retrieved from www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/child/injury/world_report/en/
9 Australian Government, Department of Health. (2013). Injury Prevention in Australia. Retrieved from http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-injury-index.htm
10 Stay On Your Feet® WA. (2015). About us. Retrieved from https://www.stayonyourfeet.com.au/about-us/
11 Sweeney, R., Meade, R. & Wold, C. Western Australian Falls Report 2019. 28 (Injury Matters, 2019).
Printable Fact sheet
Click here to download a printable version of the Falls Fact sheet