Falls are sending more Canadians to the hospital than ever before

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Unintentional falls resulted in almost 1,800 reported emergency department (ED) visits and 417 hospital stays every day last year, making them the most common cause of injury in 2016–2017.

According to new data released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), there were more than 2 million reported ED visits due to injury last year — 653,808 of which were the result of unintentional falls (results are based on partial ED coverage for injuries, at 52%). There were also more than 263,000 injury and trauma hospitalizations last year (meaning the patient spent at least one night as an inpatient). There were almost 8 ED visits due to injury and trauma for every hospitalization. Reported ED visits and hospitalizations for injuries and trauma cost $2.33 billion last year (excluding Quebec and physician compensation).

Emergency department visits for injury and trauma

  • There were 653,808 ED visits reported for injury after unintentional falls in Canada, accounting for 32% of all reported ED visits for injury and trauma.
  • Falls in the home resulted in 114,383 reported ED visits last year, making the home the most common place for a fall.
  • More women than men went to an ED after a fall in the home: 67,121 compared with 47,262.
  • Consistent with previous years, the most common type of fall resulting in injury was slipping, tripping and stumbling, causing 170,000 ED visits last year.

Hospitalizations for injury and trauma

  • There were 263,836 hospitalizations for injury and trauma in 2016–2017; more than half of these (152,504) were due to unintentional falls. This is up from 146,609 the year before.
    • A hospitalization is when a patient was admitted and spent at least one night in the hospital.
  • The average length of a hospital stay after a fall was 14.3 days in 2016–2017, compared with 7.5 days for all hospital stays.
  • Among hospitalizations after a fall, hip fracture was the most common injury, responsible for almost 32,000 hospital stays. The next most common injuries were fracture of the lower leg including ankle (16,135) and head injuries (13,997).

Falls prevention

“Falls are a leading cause of preventable injury, and many of these injuries are quite serious,” said Greg Webster, CIHI’s director of Acute and Ambulatory Care Information Services. “These injuries affect all age groups across the country. This updated information can be used to help reduce the number of unintentional falls in Canada.”

Today is the second National Injury Prevention Day, a recognition day started by Parachute Canada. Both Parachute and the Government of Canada provide tips for preventing falls on their websites.

The Public Health Agency of Canada  also offers several tips, including having non-slip surfaces in the tub and shower, installing solid handrails on both sides of stairways and asking for help with tasks that you feel you can’t do safely.

According to Parachute Canada, efforts targeting injury prevention are important, as more than 15,000 Canadians die each year from serious injuries, and some survivors are left with disabilities, both physical and emotional. Preventable injuries alone leave more than 60,000 Canadians either partially or permanently disabled each year.

About CIHI

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides essential information on Canada’s health systems and the health of Canadians.

We provide comparable and actionable data and information that are used to accelerate improvements in health care, health system performance and population health across Canada. Our stakeholders use our broad range of health system databases, measurements and standards, together with our evidence-based reports and analyses, in their decision-making processes. We protect the privacy of Canadians by ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of the health care information we provide.