Are men and women in Australia hospitalised for different types of pharmaceutical drug-related harms?

In 2016-17, Australian men and women were both most likely to be hospitalised for poisoning by pharmaceutical drugs. A higher proportion of men than women were hospitalised for mental and behavioural disorders due to pharmaceutical drug use.

In 2016-17, 82% of males and 89% of females were hospitalised for poisoning by pharmaceutical drugs; and 18% of males and 11% of females were hospitalised for mental and behavioural disorders due to pharmaceutical drug use.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). National Hospital Morbidity Database, 2016-17 (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

Please note: For the purpose of this FAQ, poisoning by pharmaceutical drugs includes: Poisoning by salicylates; Poisoning by nonopioid analgesic, antipyretic and antirheumatic, unspecified; Poisoning by other opioids; Poisoning by methadone; Poisoning by other synthetic narcotics; and Poisoning by benzodiazepines. Mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of pharmaceutical drugs includes: Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of sedatives or hypnotics. Data were not available for one poisoning by pharmaceutical drug-related reason (Poisoning by other nonopioid analgesics and antipyretics, not elsewhere classified).

The National Hospital Morbidity Database cannot distinguish between hospital separations due to non-medical use of pharmaceuticals and hospital separations due to the use of pharmaceuticals as directed by a doctor.

Hospital Separation: An episode of care for an admitted patient, which can be:

  • a total hospital stay (from admission to discharge, transfer or death); or
  • a portion of a hospital stay beginning or ending in a change of type of care (for example, from acute to rehabilitation).

Separation also means the process by which an admitted patient completes an episode of care either by being discharged, transferring to another hospital, changing type of care, or dying.