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 unintentional poisoning of all kinds were one in 70 in 2016, compared with 1 in 583 in a car accident and 1 in 114,195 for fatal injuries caused by lightning.

 
Odds Of Death In The United States By Selected Cause Of Injury, 2016 (1)

Cause of death Number of deaths,
2016
One-year
odds
Lifetime
odds
Unintentional poisoning by and exposure to noxious substances (2) 58,335 5,539 70
     Drug poisoning 54,793 5,897 75
     Opioids (including both legal and illegal) 37,814 8,545 109
All motor vehicle accidents 40,327 8,013 102
     Car occupants 7,050 45,834 583
     Motorcycle riders 4,861 66,473 846
     Pedestrian Incident 7,330 44,083 561
Assault by firearm 14,415 22,416 285
Exposure to smoke, fire and flames 2,730 118,362 1,506
Fall on and from stairs and steps 2,344 137,853 1,754
Drowning and submersion while in or falling into swimming pool 780 414,266 5,271
Fall on and from ladder or scaffolding 524 616,656 7,845
Air and space transport accidents 407 793,925 10,101
Firearms discharge (accidental) 300 1,077,092 13,703
Cataclysmic storm (3) 66 4,895,871 62,288
Flood 42 7,693,512 97,882
Lightning 36 8,975,764 114,195
Earthquake and other earth movements 33 9,791,743 124,577
Bitten or struck by dog 31 10,423,468 132,614

(1) Based on fatalities and life expectancy in 2016. Ranked by deaths in 2016.
(2) Includes all types of medications including narcotics and hallucinogens, alcohol and gases.
(3) 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 2016 were 1 in 1,374 according to the latest data available.
  • The lifetime odds of dying from an injury for a person born in 2016 were 1 in 17.
  • The odds of dying from a drug poisoning of any kind were 1 in 5,539 in 2016; the lifetime odds were 1 in 70 for a person born in 2016.

 
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 635,260 fatalities in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Compared with 2015, age-adjusted death rates (which factor out differences based on age) in 2016 for eight of the 15 leading causes of death fell significantly.  However there were significant increases in 2016 death rates for four causes: unintentional injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, suicide and Parkinson’s disease.

Influenza and pneumonia ranked eighth in 2016, with 51,537 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, 2016

 

      Age-adjusted death rate (1)
Rank Cause of death Number of deaths Rate Percent change from 2015
1 Heart disease 635,260 165.5 –1.8%
2 Malignant neoplasms (tumors) 598,038 155.8 –1.7
3 Accidents (unintentional injuries) 161,374 47.4 9.7
4 Chronic lower respiratory diseases 154,596 40.6 –2.4
5 Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) 142,142 37.3 –0.8
6 Alzheimer's disease 116,103 30.3 3.1
7 Diabetes 80,058 21.0 –1.4
8 Influenza and pneumonia 51,537 13.5 –11.2
9 Kidney disease 50,046 13.1 –2.2
10 Intentional self-harm (suicide) 44,965 13.5 1.5
11 Septicemia 40,613 10.7 –2.7
12 Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 40,545 10.7 –0.9
13 Hypertension (2) 33,246 8.6 1.2
14 Parkinson's disease 29,697 8.0 3.9
15 Pneumonitis due to solids and liquids 19,715 5.2 –1.9
  All other causes 546,313 NA NA
  All deaths 2,744,248 728.8 –0.6%

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

NA=Not applicable.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics.

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