The rate of deaths due to unintentional injuries in the U.S. grew by 40% between 1999 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Three mortality line items make up this overall statistic:

  • Deaths from motor vehicle traffic injuries
  • Deaths from unintentional drug overdoses (that is, not including suicides which are defined as “intentional”), and
  • Deaths due to unintentional falls.

The line graph illustrates the macro trend on the top-line, with the three specific causes underneath. You see deaths due to falls, motor vehicle accidents, and drug overdoses increased over the eighteen years.

Drug overdose death rates began to exceed motor vehicle traffic mortality in 2013.

There was three-times faster-paced growth in unintentional deaths in the later years of this study (2014-2017) than in the first seven years studied (1999-2006)–1.9% average annual increase in the early years compared with 6.8% annual growth in the later years.

Below the big trend are differences between rural and urban areas. Large fringe metro counties saw the biggest increase in drug overdose deaths, small metros in deaths due to motor vehicle accidents, and rural areas had the largest growth in death rates due to unintended falls.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  Here’s the bar chart illustrating the rates of mortality due to unintentional drug overdoses between 2014 and 2017, by geography. The near-doubling of the rate of overdose in large fringe metro regions stands out growing from 11.9 deaths per 100,000 in 2014 to 20.3 deaths per 100,000 in 2017. [This is not to diminish the significant growth rates in overdose mortality in rural, small metro, and large central metro areas, as well].

The CDC defines “large fringe metro” geographies as the suburban areas outside of urban centers. CDC noted for 2013 that, “residents of large fringe metro areas fare substantially better than residents of other urbanization levels.”

Not so for drug overdose trends in 2014 through 2017.

We say, in the language of social determinants of health, that our ZIP code determines our health status. From this new CDC research into unintentional injury deaths, we learn that our ZIP code specifically determines our differential risk for accidental death from vehicle accidents, falls, and drug overdosing.

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