Trends in the use of hospital beds by older people in Australia: 1993–2002

Len C Gray, Margaret A Yeo and Stephen J Duckett
Med J Aust 2004; 181 (9): 478-481.


Objective: To determine trends in use of Australian acute hospital inpatient services by older patients.

Design and data sources: Secondary analysis of hospital data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in the period 1993–94 to 2001–02, with population data for this period from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Outcome measures: Population-based rates of hospital separations and bed utilisation.

Results: The Australian aged population (65 years and older) increased by 18% compared with total population growth of 10%, yet the proportion of hospital beds occupied by older patients remained stable at 47%. The most substantial changes were observed in the population aged 75 years and older, with separations increasing by 89%, length of stay reducing by 35% and bed utilisation increasing by 23%. However, rates of bed utilisation (in relation to population) declined among older groups (10% decline in per capita use in population 75 years and older), but increased in the younger population (1% increase in per capita use in people younger than 65 years).

Conclusion: Important trends in use of inpatient services were identified in this study. These trends are contrary to common perception. Ageing of the Australian population was not associated with an increase in the proportion of hospital beds used by older patients.

Please login with your free MJA account to view this article in full

  • Len C Gray1
  • Margaret A Yeo2
  • Stephen J Duckett3

  • 1 Department of Medicine, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD.
  • 2 Faculty of Health Sciences, La Trobe University, VIC.


Competing interests:

None identified.

  • 1. Cameron PA, Campbell DA. Access block: problems and progress [editorial]. Med J Aust 2003; 178: 99-100. <MJA full text>
  • 2. Black D, Pearson M. Average length of stay, delayed discharge, and hospital congestion. BMJ 2002; 325: 610-611.
  • 3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia’s health 2002. Canberra: AIHW, 2002.
  • 4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia’s welfare 2001. Canberra: AIHW, 2001.
  • 5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Residential aged care services in Australia 2000–01: a statistical overview. Canberra: AIHW, 2002.
  • 6. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian historical population statistics. 3. Population age–sex structure. Canberra: ABS, 2002. (Catalogue no. 3105.0.65.001.) Viewed September 2003.
  • 7. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Interactive national hospital morbidity data (data cubes). Available at: (accessed Feb 2004).
  • 8. MacIntyre CR, Brook CW, Chandraraj E, Plant AJ. Changes in bed resources and admission patterns in acute public hospitals in Victoria, 1987–1995. Med J Aust 1997; 167: 186-189.
  • 9. Mathers CD, Moore G. Utilisation of acute hospitals by age and sex in Australia, 1985. Community Health Stud 1989; 13: 316-328.


remove_circle_outline Delete Author
add_circle_outline Add Author

Do you have any competing interests to declare? *

I/we agree to assign copyright to the Medical Journal of Australia and agree to the Conditions of publication *
I/we agree to the Terms of use of the Medical Journal of Australia *
Email me when people comment on this article

Responses are now closed for this article.