While motor vehicle traffic deaths in the U.S. have declined over the past decade, mortality rates for suicide, poisoning and falls increased substantially, according to a new study published online Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, November 2012.

American Journal of Public Health logo

The five leading external causes of injury deaths from 2000-2009 include motor vehicle traffic crashes, poisoning, falls, suicide and homicide or violence-related categories, reports a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, November 2012. Photo by AJPH

Researchers used cause-of-death data from the National Center for Health Statistics to describe national patterns and trends in fatal injury for the period 2000 to 2009. Among the findings, the total combined unintentional and intentional injury mortality rate in 2009 was 10 percent higher than in 2000. Additionally:

  • mortality rates for unintentional poisoning, unintentional falls and suicide increased by 128, 71 and 15 percent, respectively;
  • unintentional motor vehicle traffic crash mortality rate declined 25 percent;
  • 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; and
  • blacks and Hispanics had higher homicide rates than whites, but lower motor vehicle crash and suicide rates.

“The injury mortality rate shifted upward over the past decade, with substantial rises in the rates for poisoning, falls, and suicide,” according to the study. “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.”

In an article by U.S. World and Health Report, Lanny Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, said, “Both global and national increases in the number and rate of suicides through 2009, and as even more recent data indicates, through 2010, should concern all of us.”