Background Traditionally, the burden of injury deaths is presented as the number of fatalities due to different injury types. In Sweden, the greatest number of accidental deaths is caused by falls followed by poisonings and road traffic accidents. There is however large differences among injury types when it comes to the age profile among those affected. By taking this into account, the distribution of the burden of injury among injury types will change dramatically.
Methods Using life expectancy tables and statistics on age, sex and type of injury for the victims, the plain number of fatalities due to injuries is converted to the sum of potential years of life lost due to injuries in Sweden for the time period 1972–2014.
Results Changing the perspective from counting the number of fatalities to summing the number of potential years of life lost according to life expectancy tables, dramatically changes which injury types cause the greatest burden on society.
The total number of life years lost due to injuries in 2014 amounts to about 108,000 of which almost half were lost due to accidents (unintentional injuries). Suicide account for about 25 per cent of the injury fatalities but the share of life years lost amounts to 35 per cent, losing on average 32 years of life per fatality. For unintentional injuries, road traffic accidents historically have been the leading cause for loss of life years but since 2008 poisonings cause the highest loss. In 2014, also falls caused a higher number of life years lost than did road traffic accidents.
There are large differences in the average number of life years lost in different injury types. While the average fall fatality in 2014 caused a loss of 9 years, road traffic fatalities lost on average 32 years of life and poisoning fatalities on average 40 years.
Conclusions Using potential years of life lost due to injuries as a complement to the number of deaths will change the picture of which types of accidents place the heaviest burden on society, allowing a more nuanced description of the burden of injury fatalities.
- burden of injury
- potential years of life lost
- injury fatality
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