80% of Deaths Before Age 30 Caused by Injuries

car crash teens driving license limits
(Image credit: Dreamstime)

Nearly 80 percent of young people in the United States who die are killed by injuries, and more than half of these injuries are unintentional, such as those sustained in car crashes, falls or fires, according to a new report.

Researchers looked at all people ages 1 to 30 in the United States who died in 2010, and found that 79 percent of deaths in that group were from injuries; while 20 percent were from chronic diseases such as heart disease or cancer, and 1 percent were due to infections, the report said.

Of the deaths among young people that were due to injuries, about 60 percent were a result of unintentional injuries, while 20 percent were due to suicide, and another 20 percent to homicide. [5 Myths About Suicide, Debunked]

Among people of all ages, there were 121,000 deaths from unintentional injuries in 2010; the most common such injuries were those from car crashes, poisoning, falls, suffocation and drowning. In addition, there were 55,000 deaths among all ages related to violence that year.

Millions more people survive injuries, but are left with physical, emotional and financial problems, the researchers said. In 2010, more than 31 million people experienced unintentional injury, or injury from violence, the report said.

More than 2 million older adults were injured in falls in 2011, about 20 percent of which cause serious injuries, such as fractures and head injuries. These can restrict people's ability to move and increase their risk of early death, the researchers said.

The study authors argued that these injuries can be prevented.

"Injuries and violence are not accidents and are not inevitable," study researcher Tamara Haegerich, of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement.

For example, laws that require young children to sit in child safety seats while riding in cars can decrease fatal injuries from car crashes by 35 percent, and laws against drunk driving can reduce deaths by 7 percent, the researchers said. Other methods can reduce intentional injuries caused by violent acts. School-based programs aimed at violence prevention (for example, those that teach students productive ways to resolve conflicts) can lead to a 29-percent reduction in violence among high schoolers, the report said.

But more work is needed to bring effective injury prevention methods into communities, and to educate doctors and the public about injury prevention, the researchers said.

"Clinical medicine and public health partnerships can help to ensure that life is not stopped by a preventable injury and that thousands are spared the debilitating effects of a car crash, non-fatal drowning, severe burn, fall or assault," the researchers wrote in the July 2 issue of the journal The Lancet.

Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. FollowLive Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.