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.
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.
WHY IS YOUTH INJURY A CONCERN?
- In Australia, injury and poisoning is the leading cause of death and hospitalisation among young people, yet many injuries are preventable. (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, 2011)
- In 2011-12, just over 130,000 Australian children and young people (aged 0-24 years) were hospitalised as a result of an injury, with boys outnumbering girls 2 to 1. (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, 2014)
- Injury death rates are substantially higher among Indigenous young people and those living in remote or very remote areas – 3 times as high as the national rate. (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare 2011)
- Annually, hospital treatments of children aged between 0-16 cost an estimated $212 million, with a mean cost per injury child of $3,119. (Mitchell, Curtis & Foster, 2017).
- In Australia, injuries to young workers aged 15 to 24 cost $5,800 million, which is approximately $143, 700 per case (SafeWork Australia, 2017).
- The economic cost of road trauma in Australia is $22.2 billion dollars – the cost per fatality is $4.34 million and cost per injury is $239,000 (AAA, 2017). With more than 1,600 young drivers aged from 15 to 24 years having died on Australian roads in the past five years (TfNSW, Centre for Road Safety, 2015), the economic costs to the community are significant.
WHY IS THERE AN INCREASED RISK OF INJURY IN YOUNG PEOPLE?
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.
WHERE ARE YOUNG PEOPLE GETTING INJURED?
- 1 in 5 work injuries in Australia are incurred by young people under the age of 25 years (SafeWork Australia, 2013).
- It is estimated the cost of work related injuries and illness to young workers in Australia is $12 billion per year (SafeWork Australia, 2013).
- Two-thirds of young worker traumatic injury fatalities involved a vehicle (SafeWork Australia, 2013).
- On average, every 4 minutes and 24 seconds a young person is injured in an Australian workplace (SafeWork Australia, 2013).
- Research from NSW indicates that 15 to 25 year olds have a 75 per cent greater chance of being injured at work (SafeWork NSW, 2017).
- In NSW alone, 15 workers in the 15 to 25 year age group are injured every day (SafeWork NSW, 2017).
- During the period July 2013 to June 2014, young people aged between 15 and 19 years experienced an increase in the rate of work-related injuries or illnesses compared with 2009-10 (50 per 1000 persons in 2013-14 compared to 47 per 1000 persons in 2009-10). All other age groups experienced a decreased rate of work-related injury or illness (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014).
- Both globally and within Australia, young drivers are significantly over-represented among those killed or injured in road traffic accidents, as young drivers are more likely to engage in risky driving behaviours (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, 2011).
- Despite a reduction in fatalities, young drivers remain the most over-represented group of drivers involved in crashes on our roads. The highest period for risk is shortly after licensure, and continues up to age 24 (Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport & Regional Economics, 2013).
- In Australia, the most common external cause of injury leading to hospitalisation was transport accidents, accounting for 21% of injury hospital separations among young people (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, 2011).
- More than 1,600 young drivers aged from 15 to 24 years have died on Australian roads in the past five years (Transport for NSW Centre for Road Safety, 2015).
- Young adults have a greater proportion of single vehicle crashes, further reflecting their inexperience on the roads contributing to increased crash risk (Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport & Regional Economics, 2013).
- Finding a car with the highest safety rating is important – young drivers are more likely to be in older cars which are not as safe (ANCAP, 2017). Nearly 80 per cent of young drivers under 20 who died and 71 per cent of those who seriously injured in car crashes on the state’s roads in the past five years were driving cars older than 10 years. (SMH, 2017)
- In Australia serious injury rates for motorcyclists were the highest in the 15 -25 year old age group (Austroads, 2014).
- Motorcycle crashes involving speed, alcohol and fatigue are a concern, particularly for young and novice riders. For example, when compared to older riders, fatal crashes involving young and novice riders are:
– 5 times more likely to involve speed as a factor
– 4 times more likely to involve alcohol as a factor
– 3 times more likely to involve fatigue as a factor (Transport for NSW, 2012).
- Alcohol is the most commonly used licit or illicit substance among young people. Consumption of alcohol in adolescence increases the risk of injury, violent behaviour, sexual risk taking, poor mental health and social problems. (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, 2011)
- Alcohol is a key risk factor for injury among young people, with one in five drinkers aged 16-17 years reporting alcohol-related injuries. (Livingston 2014)
- 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, 2009)
- Whether or not a young person will start drinking and how they drink is heavily influenced by parental approval and modelling of alcohol consumption, as well as the drinking behaviour of a young person’s peers. (Livingstone, 2014)
- A range of personality traits can be linked to when a young person starts to drink alcohol, including impulsivity. (Livingstone, 2014)
- Studies have shown significant and detrimental effects in brain structure when heavy drinking is engaged in during the period of adolescence, where the brain is going through a number of significant changes. (National Health & Medical Research Council, 2009: Cservenka & Brumback, 2017)
- It is positive to see that more young Australians are drinking less. Fewer 12–17 year olds were drinking alcohol and the proportion abstaining from alcohol significantly increased from 2013 to 2016 (from 72% to 82%). A significantly lower proportion of 18–24 year olds consumed 5 or more standard drinks on a monthly basis (from 47% in 2013 to 42% in 2016). (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, 2017)
- Those young Australians who do choose to drink do so at harmful levels on a single occasion than the rest of the adult population and males were more likely to drink at harmful levels than females. (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, 2014)
- Nearly half (47%) of people (aged 12 or older) had their first glass of alcohol supplied by a friend and almost one-quarter (24%) were supplied their first glass by their parent. (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, 2014)
- There is strong evidence that factors such as advertising exposure, pricing of alcohol products, the density of alcohol outlets and the legal purchasing age all impact adolescent drinking. (Livingstone, 2014)
Sport and recreation
- In Australia, the rate of sports injury hospitalisations was highest in the 18-24 year age group. (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare: Kreisfeld et al., 2014)
- Sports and athletic areas were the most common place of [injury] occurrence for children aged 11-16 years. (Mitchell et al, 2017)
- Rates of sports injury in males is three times that of females. (Finch et al, 2011)
- The top 10 causes of sports injury hospitalisations, by type of sport:
Australian Rules Football
(Australian Institute of Health & Welfare: Kreisfeld et al, 2014)
- In Australia nearly 75% of all bicycle-related emergency department presentations were children under 15 years (CARRS-Q, 2011).
- Bike riders not wearing a helmet were almost four times as likely to sustain a severe head injury (Transport for NSW, 2014).
INVESTING IN PREVENTION SAVES LIVES – AND MONEY
- A US study into a range of injury prevention programs worldwide estimates:
- For every USD$1 spent on Life Skills Training, USD$24.60 is saved
- For every USD$1 spent on general risk and protective programs, USD$18.90 is saved
- For every USD$1 spent on bicycle helmet laws (ages 3-14), USD $45 is saved
- For every USD$1 spent on Federal Road Safety Programs, USD$35.20 is saved
- For every USD$1 spent on Zero Alcohol Tolerance, Drivers under 21, USD$25 is saved
(Children’s Safety Network, 2014)
- A WHO Europe report examined a range of studies worldwide, including an Australian study on alcohol impaired driving claimed that a saving of AUD$8,324,532 was made per month as a result of the intervention (WHO, 2014).
- It is well recognised that the costs of reducing trauma from road crashes are borne in the health, social and productivity sectors of the economy. Some of the benefits of a judicious application of safety initiatives demonstrated to the inquiry show a return across portfolios of up to 20:1 (Australian Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, 2018).