Messages are written on a board emblazoned with a No. 55 during a public memorial service for late football player Junior Seau at Qualcomm Stadium, Friday, May 11, 2012, in San Diego. Seau committed suicide on May 2 at his Oceanside, Calif., home. He played parts of 20 seasons in the NFL, with the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. (AP Photo/ Gregory Bull)
Suicide has overtaken car crashes as the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the U.S.
While public health efforts have curbed the number of car fatalities by 25% over the last decade, a new study shows suicide deaths rose by 15% during the same period.
In addition, deaths from unintentional poisoning and falls have also increased dramatically in recent years.
Researchers found deaths caused by accidental poisoning and falls increased by 128% and 71%, respectively.
“Comprehensive and sustained traffic safety measures have apparently substantially diminished the motor vehicle traffic mortality rate, and similar attention and resources are needed to reduce the burden of other injury,” researcher Ian Rockett, PhD, MPH of West Virginia University and colleagues write in the American Journal of Public Health.
Causes of Death Evolving
In the study, researchers looked at cause of death data from the National Center for Health Statistics from 2000 to 2009.
“Contrasting with disease mortality, the injury mortality rate trended upward during most of that decade,” write the researchers.
The top five leading causes of injury-related deaths were:
Motor vehicle crashes
Researchers say the findings demonstrate that suicide is now a global public health issue.
“Our finding that suicide now accounts for more deaths than do traffic crashes echoes similar findings for the European Union, Canada, and China,” they write.
Researchers say deaths from unintentional poisoning rose, in part, because of a sharp rise in prescription drug overdoses.
For example, drug overdoses accounted for 75% of unintentional poisoning deaths in 2008, with prescription drugs accounting for 74% of those overdoses.
The study also showed that women had a lower injury-related death rate than men. Blacks and Hispanics had a lower rate of car fatalities and suicides, and a higher rate of homicides than whites.
SOURCES: Rockett, I. American Journal of Public Health, Sept. 20, 2012.News release, American Public Health Association.