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2.Burden of injuries

Accidents and injuries place a huge burden on societies and individuals in the Community. This is due not only to the enormous human costs in terms of premature death and years of life lived with disability, but also to high health care costs and the costs to society from lost productivity.

Injury is, after cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory disease, the fourth most common cause of death in the Member States. Every year, about 235 000 citizens of the Member States die as a result of an accident or violence. Annually, over 50 million citizens seek medical treatment for an injury and 6.8 million of these are admitted to hospital.

More specifically, injury is:

The number one killer among young people. Accidents and injuries are the leading cause of death in children, adolescents and young adults. The burden of premature deaths is particularly high in such seemingly diverse areas as traffic accidents, drowning and suicides.

A major cause of disability. Many survivors of severe injuries suffer lifelong impairment. Although not accurately quantified, accidents and injuries are assumed to be the main cause of chronic disability among younger people, leading to an enormous loss of life years in good health.

A major cause of morbidity and health care costs. On average, in all age groups, injuries account for about 11% of all hospital admissions. In addition to the huge financial burden on health and welfare systems, injuries often affect the whole family, emotionally, organisationally and financially.

Detrimental to Community productivity. There is little data available on the causes of sick leave and disability due to injuries. Both are important factors in reduced productivity. National data indicate that up to 8% of retirement on the grounds of disability and 20% of sick leave days are the result of injuries.

Unequal in its impact on social groups. The risk of dying from an injury is five times greater in the Member State with the highest injury rate than in that with the lowest rate. There are also inequalities in exposure to injury risks according to sex, age and social status.

3.Preventability of injuries

Major advances have been made in a number of areas of safety concern, but there is still room for more effective action to reduce the huge toll of accidents and injuries in society for the following reasons:

In contrast to many other causes of ill health or premature death, injuries can be prevented by making our living environment and the products and services that we use safer. This does not always necessitate active involvement through changes in the behaviour of the risk group involved;

There is ample evidence of proven effectiveness in accident prevention measures that are still not widely applied throughout the Community;


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