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Injury is the leading cause of death and disability in young people in Australia.

Young people are over-represented in injury statistics compared with any other age group.

Another concern is that young males aged between 15 and 25 years are far more frequently and severely injured than young females the same age.

The consequences of injury are life-long – youth injury has a major impact on the short and long-term health of individuals and their families as well as creating a huge burden on the Australian health system. Surprisingly most youth injuries are preventable, which is why Youthsafe is committed to working to reduce the incidence of serious injury in young people.


  • Injury is one of the leading causes of death and disability in young people aged 15 to 25 years, yet many of the deaths and injuries are preventable.  [Australian Institute of Health & Welfare 2008]
  • In Australia, 50 308 young people aged 15-25years were hospitalised due to unintentional injury, which represents 15% of all unintentional injuries incurred during 2005-2006.  [Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, 2010]
  • Injury accounts for around two-thirds (66%) of all deaths among young Australians aged 15 to 24 years. with the leading cause attributed to transport injuries  [Australian Institute of Health & Welfare 2011]




  • On average, every 4 minutes and 24 seconds a young person is injured in an Australian workplace. [SafeWork Australia, 2013. "Work-related injuries experienced by young workers 2009-2010]
  • In NSW alone, 15 young workers are injured every day. [WorkCover NSW]
  • 1 in 5 work injuries in Australia are incurred by young people under the age of 25 years. [SafeWork Australia 2013]
  • Two-thirds of young worker traumatic injury fatalities involved a vehicle. [SafeWork Australia 2013]
  • 40.1% of children aged 12-16 interviewed by the NSW Commission for Children & Young People reported being injured while working, with 7.4% of those considered a serious work injury. [NSW Commission for Children & Young People, 2005]
  • Many young workers don't apply for workers' compensation – in NSW for 15 to 19 year olds the number of actual injuries are six times the number of WorkCover claims. [WorkCover NSW]
  • It is estimated the cost of work related injuries and illness to young workers in Australia is $12 billion per year. [SafeWork Australia 2013]


  • Young drivers are significantly over-represented in road traffic accidents resulting in both injury and death. This is not just in Australia, but worldwide. Each year nearly 400,000 people under 25 years die on the world's roads.  [World Health Organisation 2007]
  • In Australia, the population based rate for road deaths of young adults is 56 per cent higher than for all age groups.  [Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics 2013]
  • The over-representation of young people in transport related accidents has been linked to risky driving behaviours including speeding, driving when fatigued, and driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (Smart et al. 2005) as well as limited development of hazard perception related to inexperience and stages of brain development.  [Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2012]
  • In the 15-24 year age group in Australia, death rates among males were three times as high as among females in road traffic deaths (15 and 5 per 100, 000 respectively).  [Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2010]
  • The highest period for risk for Australian young drivers is shortly after they get their licence, and continues up to age 24.  [Australian Department of Infrastructure & Regional Development 2013]
  • Australian young people are more likely to be in a fatal road crash during the weekend and night time. [Australian Department of Infrastructure & Regional Development 2013]

On NSW roads

  • In 2012, 83 young people (aged 17 to 25) were killed and 5427 were injured in road related accidents (this includes as a driver or passenger of a motor vehicle/motorcycle or as a pedestrian). [Transport for NSW, 2012]
  • Young drivers under 21 years are involved in 3 times more road related crashes than drivers aged 21 years or over.  [Transport for NSW, 2011]
  • Novice drivers under 26 years represent 16% of licensed drivers but are involved in 28% of all fatal crashes. [Transport for NSW, 2012]
  • Road related deaths accounted for 26% of all deaths in 15 to 24 year old males and 21% of 15 to 24 year old females. [Transport for NSW, 2012]
  • In 2012, 27% of all speeding drivers and motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were males aged 17-25. In contrast, 4% of speeding drivers and motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were females in that age group.  [Transport for NSW, 2012]

Socialising (Alcohol)

Childhood and adolescence are critical times for brain development and the brain is more sensitive to alcohol-induced damage during these times, while being less sensitive to cues that could moderate alcohol intake.

  • Alcohol accounts for 13 per cent of all deaths among 14–17-year-old Australians — it has been estimated that one Australian teenager dies and more than 60 are hospitalised each week from alcohol-related causes. [National Health & Medical Research Council 2014]
  • Alcohol contributes to the three major causes of teen death: injury, homicide and suicide. [National Health and Medical Research Council 2009]
  • Approximately 46% of males and 35% of females aged 16-24years were drinking alcohol at levels that pose a lifetime risk to their health.  [NSW Health 2013]
  • Parents are the most likely source of alcohol for young people aged 12-17 years.  [Australian Drug Foundation, 2014]
  • The good news is however, that the age at which young people (aged 14–24) are having their first drink is being delayed, rising from 14.4 years in 1998 to 15.7 years in 2013.  [Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014]
  • The proportion of young people aged 12–17 years who are choosing not to drink has risen from 63.6% in 2010 to 72.3% in 2013.  [Australian Institute of Health and Welfare2014]

Sport and recreation

  • In NSW in 2012, the percentage of 16-24 year olds that participated in organised sport was approximately 56% (61% of males and 51% of females). [NSW Population Health Survey 2012]
  • In NSW during 2003 to 2008, rates of sports-related injury hospitalisations is highest in the 15 to 24 year old age group, followed by those aged 14 years and below.  [Finch, C.F., Mitchell, R. & Boufous, S. 2011]
  • Almost half of hospitalised injuries for Australian young people aged 12 to 24 years, for which an activity was recorded, occurred while engaged in sporting and leisure activities (55% for young males and 31% for females).  [Australian Institute of Health & Welfare 2008]
  • In NSW rates of sports injury hospitalisations in males are almost three times that of females.  [Finch, C.F., Mitchell, R. & Boufous, S. 2011]
  • In NSW during 2003 to 2008, team ball sports collectively accounted for more than 40% of all injuries amongst 15 to 24 year olds hospitalised.   [Finch, C.F., Mitchell, R. & Boufous, S. 2011]
  • In Australia the rate of sports injury hospitalisations was highest in the 18-24 year age group. [AIHW 2014]
  • The most common type of sporting injury sustained was a fracture (knee/lower leg; elbow/forearm; wrist/ hand or head), followed by soft tissue injury.  [AIHW 2014].  


What sort of injuries do you find among young people?

Young people's injuries can be relatively minor, such as soft tissue sprains and strains, which are common in activities such as sports. However young people can also sustain really serious injuries, such as brain and spinal injury, which is more common in road crashes. It is the more serious injuries that are of greater concern to Youthsafe as they can result in lifetime disability or death.


  • 15 to 19 year old males are the group most at risk of suffering traumatic brain injury. The rate of injury for this group is 399 per 100,000 population compared to a rate of 189 per 100,000 population for the community as a whole.
  • 15 to 24 year olds have the highest age specific rate of spinal cord injury with young men more likely to be injured than young women - the ratio of male to female injury in this age group is 9 to 1.
  • Other serious injuries may include limb amputations, serious bone fractures or injuries to internal organs. These can also lead to lifelong disability or be life threatening.



There are a number of factors which combine to put young people at greater risk of injury than other age groups. Risks associated with being young include:

  • New levels of independence - young people generally start being more mobile during adolescence and have less adult supervision.
  • Inexperience with new situations, which may require developing new skills, such as driving.
  • Desire for experimentation and thrill seeking which includes inexperience with alcohol and experimentation with alcohol and drugs.
  • Risk taking tendencies - thrill seeking behaviours are part of normal adolescent development.
  • Still developing maturity, hazard perception and decision making skills – the area of the brain related to these functions is generally continuing to develop in young people into their 20s.
  • Strong influence of peers – at no time is the influence of peers greater than it is in adolescence. We know that young people are often motivated by the short term gain of impressing their mates and peer acceptance rather than the longer term concerns of health and safety.
  • Overconfidence in own ability and a sense of invulnerability. As a result, they are more likely to take dangerous risks.

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