Home injury found to be a major cause of deaths, largest study of its kind finds

CHAPEL HILL -- Home may be where the heart is, but it's also where danger lurks, new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill research shows. More than 20 million visits to emergency rooms, doctors' offices and clinics occur because of mishaps there every year.

Between 19,000 and 20,000 U.S. residents were killed unintentionally in their homes in 1998, and at least 7 million suffered disabling injuries, according to the first State of Home Safety in America report, which was based on the study -- the largest and most comprehensive ever done on home safety.

To society, the resulting costs totaled almost $380 billion. The death toll uncovered during the research, conducted by UNC investigators for the Home Safety Council, is an underestimate because it could not factor in all poisonings, which are significant, the scientists say. "Falls are by far the major problem, followed by poisonings," said study leader Dr. Carol W. Runyan. "We were surprised to find that poisonings occur not just in little children, but also in large numbers of adults -- even middle-aged adults -- who appear to die from mixtures of prescription drugs and in some cases illicit drugs as well."

Runyan is director of UNC's Injury Prevention Research Center and professor of health behavior and health education at the School of Public Health. Along with Home Safety Council staff, she released the study in Washington, D.C., today (Thursday, Sept. 26). After falls and poisonings, the leading causes of such deaths were fires, inhalations and suffocation and drowning, she said. Among other findings were that states with the fewest home injury deaths per 100,000 population were Massachusetts, Utah, Maryland, Minnesota and New York. Those with the most were New Mexico, the District of Columbia, Arizona, Mississippi and Wisconsin, followed by the Dakotas, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Overall, New England was the safest region. New Mexico saw 17.31 deaths per 100,00

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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