Surprising, scary statistics on injuries

Friday, April 15, 2011

Despite the spring storm, we're well into spring and weather for outdoor activities is predicted to be back this weekend.

With spring and summer, however, comes the added risk of injury and death.

Like illness, most cases of injuries and death are predictable and preventable, according to Dr. Joann Schaefer, chief medical officer of the Nebrsaka Health and Human Services System.

The theme of this month's National Public Health Month is "Safety is No Accident: Live Injury Free."

"Injuries are a major public health problem in Nebraska, resulting in significant numbers of deaths, hospitalizations and emergency department visits," Schaefer said. "From 2004 to 2008, intentional and unintentional injuries were the fifth leading cause of death in Nebraska. For Nebraskans age 1 to 44 years, unintentional injuries were the leading cause of death."

While we naturally fear diseases like cancer, in Nebraska, injury was the second leading cause for loss of years of potential life, after cancer, and the cause of 6 percent of total deaths.

Among 15 to 34 year olds, however, more than half were due to injuries (78 percent for age 15-24 and about 54 percent for both the 5-14 and 25-34 age groups).

We're not surprised about the leading cause of injury deaths, motor vehicle crashes, and hospitalization caused by vehicle crashes were highest among young adults (67 per 100,000 for age 15-24 and approximately 79 per 100,000 for age 75+). Nor were we surprised by the expense, $23,567 for the median hospital charge for injuries due to unintential motor vehicle crashes.

According to frightening figures cited by the HHSS, suicide was the leading cause of injury death for individuals 35-55, with males more likely to die from suicide, while females were more likely to be hospitalized for suicide attempts.

Suicide was also the second leading cause of injury death overall. Fifty-two percent were caused by firearms, 26 percent by suffocation, 18 percent by poisoning and 4 percent by other means.

And, falls were the leading cause of injury hospitalizations for all ages combined in Nebraska, according to the study, and were the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths. Such deaths were most common among adults aged 85 years and older.

So what's the solution?

Obviously, while we need to wear our seatbelts, drive sober and undistracted and use safety precautions at work and play, the suicide statistics point out the importance of taking care of our mental health.

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