Fatal Injury Rates Climb after 20-Year Decline

While workplace fatality rates have decreased in recent years, a study released in December 2007 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that national injury death rates rose more than 5 percent from 1999 to 2004.

This increase follows a two-decade decline in mortality rates and indicates that fatal injuries are a risk not only in the workplace, but also during off-the-job hours.

The study, published last month in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, included total mortality rates for premature deaths caused by unintentional injury, suicide, homicide and injuries of undetermined intent.

“We're very concerned anytime we see an increase in premature deaths,” said Ileana Arias, director of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “We don't know if this is an indication of a trend, but it is something that needs to be further examined.”

The largest increases in injury mortality rates appeared in the 20-29 and 45-54-year age groups. The 45-54-year age group experienced an additional 8,000 deaths in 2004 and had a 25 percent increase in mortality rates, while 20-29-year-olds had an eight percent increase in injury deaths.

These age groups may have experienced the highest mortality increases based on a rise in prescription drug abuse, which could have contributed to higher rates of suicide, homicide, unintentional poisoning or other injuries. More than half of the increased deaths in each age group were attributed to unintentional poisonings. CDC noted that prevention programs that focus on such shared risk factors could help reduce the number of injury-related deaths.

“The increase in prescription drug overdoses among the middle-aged is something that the CDC has noted before,” said Len Paulozzi, a medical epidemiologist with CDC. “We need to explore the increases in other types of injury for which drug abuse is a risk factor in the same age groups.”

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