Suicide tops Cars in the US

A recent paper in the American Journal of Public Health indicates that suicide has passed car crashes as the leading cause of injury deaths in the US.
Leading Causes of Unintentional and Intentional Injury Mortality: United States, 2000–2009.
Ian Rockett et al. American Journal of Public Health. e-View Ahead of Print.

Abstract
Objectives. We have described national trends for the 5 leading external causes of injury mortality.
Methods. We used negative binomial regression and annual underlying cause-of-death data for US residents for 2000 through 2009.
Results. Mortality rates for unintentional poisoning, unintentional falls, and suicide increased by 128%, 71%, and 15%, respectively. The unintentional motor vehicle traffic crash mortality rate declined 25%. Suicide ranked first as a cause of injury mortality, followed by motor vehicle traffic crashes, poisoning, falls, and homicide. Females had a lower injury mortality rate than did males. The adjusted fall mortality rate displayed a positive age gradient. Blacks and Hispanics had lower adjusted motor vehicle traffic crash and suicide mortality rates and higher adjusted homicide rates than did Whites, and a lower unadjusted total injury mortality rate.
Conclusions. Mortality rates for suicide, poisoning, and falls rose substantially over the past decade. Suicide has surpassed motor vehicle traffic crashes as the leading cause of injury mortality. Comprehensive traffic safety measures have successfully reduced the national motor vehicle traffic crash mortality rate. Similar efforts will be required to diminish the burden of other injury.

More information from Medicalxpress:

More Americans now commit suicide than die in car crashes, making suicide the leading cause of injury deaths, according to a new study. In addition, over the last 10 years, while the number of deaths from car crashes has declined, deaths from poisoning and falls increased significantly, the researchers report. “Suicides are terribly undercounted; I think the problem is much worse than official data would lead us to believe,” said study author Ian Rockett, a professor of epidemiology at West Virginia University. There may be 20 percent or more unrecognized suicides, he said. Many of the poisoning deaths may actually be intended, he added. A lot of these deaths are due from overdoses of prescription drugs, Rockett noted….

For the study, Rockett’s team used data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics to determine the cause of injury deaths from 2000 to 2009. The leading causes of unintentional deaths were car accidents, poisoning and falls, and for intentional deaths they were suicide and homicide. Deaths from intentional and unintentional injury were 10 percent higher in 2009 than in 2000, the researchers noted. And although deaths from car crashes declined 25 percent, deaths from poisoning rose 128 percent, deaths from falls increased 71 percent and deaths from suicides rose 15 percent, according to the study. Suicide is now the first cause of injury deaths, followed by car crashes, poisoning, falls and murder, Rockett said.

Fewer deaths on our highways is good news and is attributable to several different causes. Improved safety of both roads and vehicles are the two that spring immediately to mind. However, another factor is that Americans are driving fewer miles than they did a decade ago.

The increase in suicide is more problematic and the reasons are more difficult to determine and address.

In 2009, more than 37,000 Americans took their own lives, and more than 500,000 were at risk of suicide, according to Pamela Hyde, administrator of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Suicide is a serious public health problem and we, as a society, need to look at the factors that lead to suicide and what we can do to mitigate the problem. We like to talk a lot about how expensive and overtaxed our medical system is. Improving prevention for mental health is a vital step in that direction.

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