Accidental injuries are the most common cause of death among Americans younger than 20 years, with traffic accidents leading the list, CDC researchers found.
For every 100,000 children and adolescents, 890 years of potential life are lost each year through injuries, with 55% of those lost years being attributed to motor vehicle crashes, according to an analysis in the Oct. 19 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Each year, about 12,000 young Americans die from injuries, and another 9 million have injuries requiring emergency department care, the agency noted.
To more fully explicate the effects of fatal injuries in the young, CDC analyzed data from the National Vital Statistics System, calculating years of potential life lost according to victims’ ages, gender, race, and mechanisms of injury.
This information then “can be used to prioritize and identify subgroups of the population most at risk,” the report stated.
Years of potential life lost were estimated for each individual by subtracting their age at the time of death from 75.
They found that in the decade beginning in 2000, years of potential life lost reached 1,137 per 100,000 among males, which was almost twice that seen for females, whose loss in years totaled 630 per 100,000.
Years of potential life lost were 1,977 per 100,000 for infants younger than 1 year, with almost three-quarters of those deaths being attributed to suffocation.
For children ages 5 to 9 years, years lost were estimated at 367 per 100,000, a total that rose to 1,768 among teens ages 15 to 19.
Analysis according to race and ethnicity identified Native Americans and Alaskan males as having the highest rates, with 1,790 per 100,000.
Rates for black and white males, respectively, were 1,194 and 1,147.
Native American and Alaskan girls also had high rates that were nearly double what was seen for white or black girls.
The high rate of injuries associated with motor vehicle injuries was five times greater than the rate for the next highest cause, which was suffocation (491 versus 95 per 100,000).
Rates of potential life lost for other causes of injury were:
- Drowning, 91 per 100,000
- Pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents, 52 per 100,000
- Burns, 45 per 100,000
- Poisoning, 52 per 100,000
- Falls, 14 per 100,000
Wide variance was seen in rates between states. The lowest rates were seen for Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, which were 416, 470, 484, and 521 per 100,000, respectively.
States with the highest rates were Mississippi, Alaska, South Dakota, and Wyoming, which reached 1,770, 1,592, 1,573, and 1,543 per 100,000, respectively.
An important public health goal in the U.S. today is decreasing these injuries and the attendant years of potential life lost among young people, the agency observed.
Calculating these years of lost life “will help prioritize implementation of known and effective interventions, such as using safety belts, wearing bicycle and motorcycle helmets, reducing drinking and driving, strengthening graduated driver licensing laws, using safety equipment during sports participation, requiring four-sided residential pool fencing, and encouraging safe sleep practices for infants,” the report stated.
To this end, CDC has launched a national prevention plan that contains recommendations for future research, education, surveillance, and policies to help prevent fatal injuries in children.
A limitation of the analysis was the reliance on death certificates for causes of death, which could have permitted inaccuracies.
Primary source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Source reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Years of potential life lost from unintentional injuries among persons aged 0-19 years – United States, 2000-2009″ MMWR 2012; 61: 830-833.