Facts + Statistics: Mortality risk

Odds of dying from accidental injuries

The chart below shows the likelihood, or odds, of dying as a result of a specific type of accident. The odds of dying over a one-year period are based on the U.S. population as a whole, not on participants in any particular activity or on how dangerous that activity may be. For example, more people are killed in auto accidents than in motorcycle accidents or airplane crashes, not because riding a motorcycle or traveling in an airplane is more or less dangerous, but because far more people travel by car. Drug poisoning is the leading cause of injury death in the United States. The lifetime chances of dying from a drug or medication overdose were one in 96 in 2014, compared with about 1 in 645 in a car accident and 1 in 161,856 for fatal injuries caused by lightning.

Odds Of Death In The United States By Selected Cause Of Injury, 2014 (1)

Cause of death Number of deaths,
Unintentional poisoning by and exposure to noxious substances 42,032 7,586 96
All motor vehicle accidents 35,398 9,008 114
     Car occupants 6,274 50,822 645
     Motorcycle riders 4,106 77,656 985
     Pedestrian incident 6,258 50,952 647
Assault by firearm 10,945 29,133 370
Exposure to smoke, fire and flames 2,701 118,051 1,498
Fall on and from stairs and steps 2,285 139,544 1,771
Drowning and submersion while in or falling into swimming pool 701 454,860 5,772
Firearms discharge (accidental) 586 544,125 6,905
Fall on and from ladder or scaffolding 525 607,347 7,707
Air and space transport accidents 412 773,925 9,821
Earthquake and other earth movements 86 3,707,640 47,051
Cataclysmic storm (2) 61 5,227,165 66,335
Bitten or struck by dog 36 8,857,140 112,400
Lightning 25 12,754,282 161,856
Flood 8 39,857,132 505,801

(1) Based on fatalities and life expectancy in 2015. Ranked by deaths in 2014.
(2) Includes hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, dust storms and other cataclysmic storms.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics; National Safety Council.

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  • The odds of dying from an injury in 2014 were 1 in 1,576 according to the latest data available.
  • The lifetime odds of dying from an injury for a person born in 2014 were 1 in 20.
  • The odds of dying from drug poisoning were 1 in 7,586 in 2014; the lifetime odds were 1 in 96 for a person born in 2014.

The opioid crisis in the United States

Opioid abuse and addiction is now recognized as a significant public health problem in the United States. Drug poisoning, from prescription and illegal drugs combined, is the leading cause of injury death in the United States. Between 1999 and 2015 deaths from drug poisoning more than tripled from 16,849 in 1999 to 52,404 in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Opioid analgesics, a group of prescription drugs that are used to alleviate chronic and acute pain, have been increasingly involved in the rise of drug overdose deaths over the same period. In 1999, there were 4,030 deaths attributed to opioid analgesics, accounting for 24 percent of all drug poisoning deaths. By 2014 deaths from opioid analgesics more than quadrupled to 18,893 and accounted for 40 percent of all drug poisoning deaths, according to the CDC.

Number Of Drug Poisoning Deaths, 1999-2015

(1) Drug poisoning caused by prescription and illegal drugs.
(2) Prescription drugs used to alleviate chronic and acute pain.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics.

A June 2017 report issued by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association found that diagnoses of opioid-use disorder (addiction to opioids, including prescription painkillers and illegal narcotics such as heroin) increased almost 500 percent between 2010 and 2016.  The study examined claims from 30 million people who had commercial insurance provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers. It found that opioid-use disorder was 40 times more likely in patients prescribed high doses for a short duration, compared with low doses for a short duration. Opioid-use disorder was seven times more likely when patients were prescribed a high dose for a long duration, rather than a low dose for a long duration. In addition, 21 percent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) commercially-insured members filled at least one opioid prescription in 2015, according to the report.

Health risks

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 633,842 fatalities in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza and pneumonia ranked eighth in 2015, accounting for some 57,000 fatalities. However, pandemic influenza viruses have the potential to be far more deadly. An estimated 675,000 Americans died during the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, the deadliest and most infectious known influenza strain to date.

Top 15 Major Causes of Death, 2015

      Age-adjusted death rate (1)
Rank Cause of death Number of deaths Rate Percent change from 2014
1 Heart disease 633,842 168.5 0.9%
2 Malignant neoplasms (tumors) 595,930 158.5 -1.7
3 Chronic lower respiratory diseases 155,041 41.6 2.7
4 Accidents (unintentional injuries) 146,571 43.2 6.7
5 Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) 140,323 37.6 3.0
6 Alzheimer's disease 110,561 29.4 15.7
7 Diabetes 79,535 21.3 1.9
8 Influenza and pneumonia 57,062 15.2 0.7
9 Kidney disease 49,959 13.4 1.5
10 Intentional self-harm (suicide) 44,193 13.3 2.3
11 Septicemia 40,773 11.0 2.8
12 Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 40,326 10.8 3.8
13 Hypertension (3) 32,200 8.5 3.7
14 Parkinson's disease 27,972 7.7 4.1
15 Pneumonitis due to solids and liquids 19,803 5.3 3.9
  All other causes 538,539 NA NA
  All deaths 2,712,630 733.1 1.2%

(1) Per 100,000 population; factors out differences based on age.
(2) Less than 0.1 percent.
(3) Essential (primary) hypertension and hypertensive renal disease.

NA=Not applicable.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics.

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