Accidents, Guns and Overdoses Account For Increase in Death Rate in US Adults Interview with:

Dr. Andrew Fenelon PhD NIH Postdoctoral Fellow Brown University

Dr. Andrew Fenelon

Dr. Andrew Fenelon PhD
NIH Postdoctoral Fellow
Brown University

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Fenelon: The life expectancy of the US population is about 2 years less than that of other high-income nations, which is an important problem in public health. Although much previous work looks at differences in death rates among older adults, some recent work has shown that deaths at younger ages (below age 50) account for a significant fraction of the life expectancy gap. Our study examines the contribution of major injuries, Motor Vehicle Crashes, Firearm-related deaths, and drug poisonings, which often occur at younger ages and account for many years of lost life.

Our findings indicate that US men and women experience significantly higher death rates from these three causes of injury death than each of the 12 comparison high-income countries. Overall, these three causes of death explained 48% of the 2.2 year life expectancy gap between the United States and other high-income countries among men, with firearm injuries alone explaining 21%. Among women, these causes explained 19%.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Fenelon: An important takeaway is that just three causes of injury, accounting for only about 4 percent of US deaths, explain nearly half of the life expectancy gap with similar countries. Reducing mortality from these injuries could reduce the 2.2-year life expectancy gap among men by around 1 year, a significant gain in life expectancy.

These injuries have a pronounced impact on life expectancy because deaths often occur at younger ages, at which individuals would have many decades of productive life remaining.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Fenelon: Future work should attempt to explain why US death rates from these causes of death are so much higher than in countries with comparable incomes and levels of development.

Medical Research: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. Fenelon: In the past decade in the US, there has been a decrease in mortality from motor vehicle crashes, stable mortality from firearm-related injuries, and an increase in mortality from drug poisonings. 


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Andrew Fenelon (2016). Accidents, Guns and Overdoses Account For Increase in Death Rate in US Adults 

Last Updated on February 11, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD