Are younger or older Australians more likely to be hospitalised due to pharmaceutical drug use?

In 2016-17, the largest proportion of hospital separations due to pharmaceutical drug use occurred among 30-39 and 40-49 year olds (20% each), followed by 20-29 year olds (19%).

In 2016-17, Australians aged less than 15 years accounted for 3% of hospital separations due to pharmaceutical drug use, those aged 15-19 years accounted for 6%, those aged 20-29 accounted for 19%, those aged 30-39 years accounted for 20%, those aged 40-49 years accounted for 20%, those aged 50-59 years accounted for 14%, those aged 60-69 years accounted for 9%, and those aged 70+ years accounted for 9%.

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

Please note: This FAQ uses data from the National Hospital Morbidity Database, which includes the following reasons for hospitalisation considered to be related to the use of pharmaceutical drugs: Poisoning by salicylates; Poisoning by nonopioid analgesic, antipyretic and antirheumatic, unspecified; Poisoning by other opioids; Poisoning by methadone; Poisoning by other synthetic narcotics; Poisoning by benzodiazepines; and Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of sedatives or hypnotics. Data were not available for four pharmaceutical drug-related reasons (Poisoning by other nonopioid analgesics and antipyretics, not elsewhere classified; Opioids and related analgesics causing adverse effects in therapeutic use; Salicylates causing adverse effects in therapeutic use; and Benzodiazepines causing adverse effects in therapeutic use).

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.