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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2021

Adolescent Injury and Mortality

Injury accounts for about 75% of adolescent deaths. Compared with younger children, adolescents ages 15–19 have much higher death rates overall and from injuries. Adolescents are much more likely to die from injuries sustained from motor vehicle traffic crashes and firearms than are younger children.86 The leading causes of nonfatal injury resulting in an emergency department (ED) visit also differ between adolescents and younger children. For example, the leading cause of adolescent nonfatal injury ED visits is being struck by or against an object or person, whereas for younger children, the leading cause of nonfatal injury ED visits is falls (see PHY7.A). In addition, ED visits for nonfatal injuries for adolescents more often result from violence, sports-related activities, or motor vehicle traffic crashes. In 2019, there were nearly 8,000 fatal injuries and 2 million ED visits for non-fatal injuries among adolescents.85

Indicator PHY8.A: Emergency department visit rates for adolescents ages 15–19 by leading causes of injury, 2017–2018
Indicator PHY8.A: Emergency department visit rates for adolescents ages 15–19 by leading causes of injury, 2017–2018

NOTE: Visits are the initial visit to the emergency department for the injury. "Struck" denotes injuries caused by being struck by or against an object or person, "overexertion" denotes injuries caused by excessive physical exercise or strenuous movements in recreational or other activities, and "cut or pierced" denotes injuries caused by cutting or piercing from instruments or objects.

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.

  • In 2017–2018, the three leading causes of injury-related ED visits among adolescents were being struck by or against an object or person, falls, and motor vehicle traffic crashes.
  • Injury-related ED visits among adolescents ages 15–19 from being struck by or against an object or person (26 visits per 1,000), falls (19 visits per 1,000), and motor vehicle traffic crashes (14 visits per 1,000) accounted for more than one half of the injury-related ED visits for this age group in 2017–2018.
  • Injuries caused by overexertion resulted in 6 ED visits per 1,000 adolescents ages 15–19 in 2017–2018.
  • Injuries resulting from cutting or piercing from instruments or objects accounted for 5 ED visits per 1,000 adolescents ages 15–19 in 2017–2018.
  • Motor vehicle traffic injuries were the leading mechanism of injury deaths among adolescents ages 15–19 prior to 2016. In 2016, there was no statistically significant difference between deaths related to motor vehicle traffic injuries and firearm injuries. However, beginning in 2017, firearm-related injury deaths (14 deaths per 100,000 in 2019) became more common than motor vehicle traffic deaths (10 deaths per 100,000 in 2019).

Indicator PHY8.B: Death rates among adolescents ages 15–19 by all causes and all injury causes and selected mechanisms of injury, 2009–2019
Indicator PHY8.B: Death rates among adolescents ages 15–19 by all causes and all injury causes and selected mechanisms of injury, 2009–2019

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System.

Indicator PHY8.C: Injury mortality rates among adolescents ages 15–19 by manner of intent and gender, 2019
Indicator PHY8.C: Injury mortality rates among adolescents ages 15–19 by manner of intent and gender, 2019

NOTE: The manner of intent involves whether the injury was purposefully inflicted (if it can be determined) or unintentional. If the injury is deemed intentional, it is further classified as self-inflicted (suicide) or inflicted on another person (homicide).

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System.

  • The death rate for motor vehicle traffic injuries declined by 5 points, from 15 deaths per 100,000 in 2009 to 10 deaths per 100,000 in 2019 among adolescents ages 15–19.
  • After a period of stability from 2009 to 2013, firearm death rates increased by 4 points, from 10 deaths per 100,000 in 2013 to 14 deaths per 100,000 in 2019 among adolescents ages 15–19.
  • The unintentional injury (accident) death rate in 2019 was higher among male adolescents (23 deaths per 100,000) than among female adolescents (10 deaths per 100,000). The homicide rates also were higher among males than females (15 deaths per 100,000 and 3 deaths per 100,000, respectively), as were the suicide rates (16 deaths per 100,000 and 5 deaths per 100,000, respectively).








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85 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS—Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System [Online]. http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars

86 Curtin, S. C., Heron, M., MiniƱo, A. M., & Warner, M. (2018). Recent increases in injury mortality among children and adolescents aged 10–19 years in the United States: 1999–2016. National Vital Statistics Reports, 67(4), 1–16.