Injury and violence


The acute association between interpersonal violence, alcohol and drug use, self-harm, and mental health issues have to this point been relatively unexplored, particularly in the context of emergency services. The Australian Institute of Criminology funded a project to examine the use of ambulance data to inform patterns and trends of alcohol and other drug misuse, self-harm and mental health in different types of violence under their Commonwealth Research Grant Scheme.

The project aimed to identify and analyse ambulance attendances for violent incidents across Victoria and Tasmania. In doing so, it extended the scope of the National Ambulance Surveillance System, refining coding techniques and developing a nuanced taxonomy of violence concepts, types and roles.

Relevant cases were differentiated by type of violence (e.g. aggression, threatening behaviour, physical violence) and by role played in the incident (i.e. either victim or aggressor), and explored the co-occurrence of alcohol and drug use, self-harm, and/or mental health issues.

Ambulance attendances related to victims of violence had few co-occurring issues beyond alcohol and drug use. In contrast, attendances related to aggressors were more complex, with high proportions of co-occurring mental health, self-harm, and alcohol and drug issues. These findings demonstrate the utility of ambulance data for surveillance of interpersonal violence.

Aggression and violence are frequently recorded in ambulance attendances, posing a recurring threat to the health and safety to not only the patients themselves, but also bystanders, and emergency services including paramedics and police. A 2019 NAMHSU study explored characteristics of violence-related attendances over a five-year period, highlighting the demographic, substance use and timing factors that increase violence-related risks for patients and paramedics.

Project team

Turning Point team

Dr Debbie Scott, Ms Naomi Beard, Dr Dhanya Nambiar, Mr Sam Campbell, Mr Nik Suresh, Turning Point ambulance data coding team, and database development/management.

Learn more about this project