At some stage in our lives, we’re going to find ourselves in hospital. It’s an inevitable fact. But different ailments are more likely to strike at different life stages.
Looking at the big picture, hospitalisation increases markedly with age among Australians. Women are hospitalised at a higher rate during their reproductive years. Then from around age 50, men are more likely to be admitted to hospital than women, right through to old age.
The reasons for hospital admissions differ between public and private hospitals. In 2016-17 public hospitals were more likely to see patients with ‘injuries or poisoning’ and abnormal symptoms, compared with private hospitals where ‘diseases of the digestive system’ and ‘musculoskeletal and connective tissue’ surgery was higher.
What do the stats tell us about why and when people are commonly admitted to hospital?
Australians aged over 50 account for the largest percentage of hospital admissions. Interestingly, they present for a number of reasons depending on how much older than 50 they are.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports the number one reason people over 65 presented at emergency departments in 2016-2017 was pain in the throat or chest.
The same age bracket also accounted for 42 per cent of the total same-day hospital admissions in Australia in 2016-2017. If we dive deeper, the main reason for these admissions was for care involving dialysis.
Data also shows us that of the private hospital admissions in the years 2014-2015, people aged 50 to 54 were most commonly presenting for musculoskeletal system issues.
The most common cause for hospitalisation, and commonly death, for young Australians (aged 0 to 24) in 2011 was injury and poisoning.
This hasn’t really changed since then, nor historically. Typically, the younger years of our lives are spent learning lessons and part of that is taking risks. Stats show us that when we segment the admissions into gender, males accounted for twice as many injuries and poisoning admissions as females.
So while there may be fewer reasons why young Australians wind up in a hospital bed, the main reason is often the leading cause of death among young people.
The health system
According to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, medicine-related issues result in an estimated 230,000 hospital admissions annually, and are a key cause of re-admission.
Patients are especially vulnerable to medicine-related issues when they first leave hospital after an admission. The most prone are those who were admitted for a cardiac-related event.
Back in 2017, then Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt believed a key objective for the health system was to avoid hospital admissions, “as chronic disease and an ageing population put unsustainable pressure on health budgets.”
As much as the health system can improve Australia’s health, the first step to avoiding hospital comes down to the individual.
It might be easier said than done. But there are ways you can minimise the chance you’ll find yourself in a hospital bed.
Keeping healthy and active for life will help keep your musculoskeletal system and circulatory and respiratory system in good shape. Which is particularly important as we age.
Maintaining a good diet that’s rich in fibre and keeping hydrated is key to keeping your digestive system in check—obviously an issue for all Australians. And it goes without saying that smokers should quit smoking to reduce the risk of heart disease.
While ‘learning by doing’ is a part of life, there should be a focus on minimising risk – for young and old. By recognising dangerous situations and keeping motor vehicles and drugs or alcohol separate, young Australians can help halt the trend.
Unless it’s for the birth of a baby, hospital is never a fun place to be. Take care of yourself so you stay healthy and out of hospital.