- An increasing number of people die from unintentional home injury, in large part due to accidental drug overdose.
- Older adults and infants have the highest rates of death from unintentional home injury, due to suffocation for infants and falls for adults over 80.
An increasing number of people are dying from unintentional injury at home, with more than 30,000 deaths occurring between 2000 and 2008, finds a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Poisoning, falls and fire/burn injuries caused the most fatalities, respectively.
The study reveals that poisonings were the leading cause of unintentional home injury deaths for those ages 15 to 59 years, largely resulting from unintentional drug overdoses of narcotics, hallucinogens and other drugs. Additionally, more men and boys died from home injury than women and girls did and adults 80 years and older had higher rates of injury-related in-home death than other ages.
“These injuries are predictable and preventable,” said lead author Karin Mack, Ph.D. of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mack and her colleagues called for more research to develop effective interventions to modify the home like smoke alarms, limiting access to non-prescription drugs, and closer supervision of children. Other helps would be broader dissemination of prevention messages to specific audiences including healthcare and education providers, law enforcement and policymakers, and media, they said.
The researchers used combined state-specific death certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System, an inter-governmental public health database. New Mexico had the highest rates of unintentional home injury death during the study period with the lowest in Massachusetts.
Mack said that despite the uptick in home injury during the study period, she was encouraged by momentum occurring in the field of healthy homes, citing two publications that helped spark national interest in home safety: a 2009 report, “The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Healthy Homes,” and a 2011 report from the American Public Health Association, “Healthy & Safe Homes: Research, Practice, and Policy”.
Much more needs to be done, said Carol W. Runyan, M.P.H., Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology and community and behavioral health at the Colorado School of Public Health.
“The increases in poisoning, largely due to prescription pain medication, have been most dramatic over the past decade, signaling a need to rethink how pain medications are prescribed and used,” she said.
Falls continue to be the major source of fatal home injury in older adults and suffocation the leading cause for infants, Runyan said.
“As the authors note, most of these injuries are preventable through changes in the home environment and safety practices. Unfortunately, this enormous and costly public health problem has not received the national attention it deserves. Funding to understand and address the problem is a pittance compared to other health problems and many health professionals are poorly trained to address these challenges,” she said.
Runyan said the deaths are not inevitable results of uncontrollable or accidental circumstances. “Hopefully this paper will stimulate a shift in the national attention and support for prevention,” she said.
For More Information:
Reach CFAH's Health Behavior News Service at [email protected] or (202) 387-2829.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine: Contact the editorial office at (858) 534-9340 or [email protected].
Mack, K. et al. (2013) Fatal Unintentional Injuries in the Home in the U.S.: 2000-2008, American Journal of Preventive Medicine. March, 44.