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  Chapter Eight:

  Health of Children
  Health of Adults
  STDs and AIDS
  Illegal Drugs
  Accidental Deaths
  Hospital Patients
  Health Care Costs
  Mental Patients
  Disabled Persons



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Accidental Deaths

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Life in America became much safer.
The death rate for nonvehicular accidents declined steadily from 94 per 100,000 people in 1907 to 19 in 1997. (See page 236 for a discussion of the decline in the motor vehicle accident rate and page 28 for a discussion of the decline in fatal accidents in dangerous occupations.) 

As the chart shows, deaths from all of the most common types of home, street, and work accidents declined fairly steadily throughout the century. Accidental falls, for example, killed fifteen of every 100,000 Americans in 1910, ten in 1965, and only five in 1990. This is somewhat surprising because older people, who were proportionately about three times as numerous in 1990 as in 1910, are the most likely to suffer such falls. 

Aside from vehicular accidents, falls were the leading cause of accidental death during the century. Other significant causes were drowning, fire, poisoning, and the accidental discharge of firearms. With the exception of poisoning, which shows no clear trend, accidents from all these causes declined significantly. Between 1950 and 1995, the rate of accidental drowning decreased by more than half and gun accidents by more than two-thirds, despite major growth in water sports and gun ownership. 

The causes of declining accident rates have not been fully analyzed. Much of the credit must go to a better-educated population using better-engineered devices. Some credit must also go to more effective treatment of potentially lethal injuries, and to the safety-consciousness stimulated by government efforts and the litigation boom. The better-educated population using better-engineered devices presumably played the leading role, however, because most of the reduction in accidents occurred before recent advances in trauma therapy, prior to the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and before the litigation boom.

Chapter 8 chart 8

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

HS series B 164 and B165; SA 1979, table 110; SA 19821983, table 113; SA 1987, table 114; SA 1998, table 148; SA 1991, table 116; and SA 1999, table 137. For the rate of drowning, see SA 1971, table 76; SA 1980, table 116; and SA 1999, table 146.


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