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A Rise In Certain Injury-Related Deaths Among Seniors

April 7, 2010

The risk of dying from injuries is increasing for Americans ages 65 and older according to a new report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Injury Research and Policy. “Our findings reveal significant increases in death rates from several different injury causes,” said study co-author Susan P. Baker, MPH, a professor with the Bloomberg School’s Center for Injury Research and Policy. “While the overall change in injury mortality among persons 65 and older was small, this study identifies important causes worthy of further investigation.” The report found significant increases in death rates from a number of causes, some of which are surprising and some of which aren’t. Deaths from falls are up 42 percent and deaths related to machinery are up 46 percent; there was a 145 percent increase from motorcycle crashes and 34 percent from unintentional poisoning. The results are published in a recent issue of Injury Prevention and are available online at the journal’s website. “We know injuries are taking a toll on older adults. This research helps us to build upon our knowledge and translate science into effective programs and policies that prevent these injuries and minimize the consequences of injuries when they occur,” said Grant Baldwin, PhD, MPH, Director of the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA. The study also looked at changes in emergency department (ED) visits, and found that despite the significant increase in fatal falls, there has been no significant increase in fall-related admissions among the study population. The authors speculate this could be attributed to a trend in recent years to report the underlying cause of death as a fall. In addition, many elderly people are now living longer with conditions that may predispose them to falls. “Alcohol is another contributing risk factor worthy of consideration,” added senior author Guoqing Hu, PhD. “Given the association between alcohol and injury, recent documented increases in alcohol problems among the elderly may be another partial explanation for the increase in severe falls.” On a more positive note, significant declines occurred in the rate of deaths attributed to motor vehicle crashes, suffocation and suicide.