Accidents cause tremendous suffering and countless disabilities, are a major cause of death at all ages, entail vast cost to society, and happen in all countries of the world.
A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in 2018 said that the number of hospitalised injury cases across Australia rose from 327,000 in 1999-2000 to 480,000 in 2014-15. This equated to one person requiring hospitaisation in every 58 Australians in 1999-2000, rising to about one in 50 in 2014-15. After adjusting for changes in the population structure, this is an average rate increase of about one per cent per year.
Figures from many countries demonstrate that 20% of hospitalizations on average are connected with accident injuries. In the USA—as in most industrialized countries—accidents are the main cause of death occurring during the first half of probable life expectancy, killing 150,000 people each year and injuring about 75 million. Of the injured, about 90,000 suffer head-injury in a car accident and require hospital treatment. Many are left with a permanent mental disability. Many others become juvenile disabled with some form of motor handicap—paraplegia or quadriplegia. Apart from the purely human aspects, the cost to society of road accidents in the USA in 1980 came to 2.6% of the gross national product (GNP). Many experts believe that for each death there are several hundred non-fatal accidents, and maybe ten or so permanent disabilities. Many seemingly trivial accidents, such as falls, turn out in fact to be more serious, particularly in the case of old people. In New Zealand, 28,000 people are injured each year in various types of fall which cost the insurance companies about $12 million.
In 50 developed and developing countries surveyed, motor vehicle accidents represented 40% of all accidental deaths. A WHO study shows that deaths from motor vehicle accidents are increasing in the 15-24 age group. Between 1955-59 and 1970-74 they increased by over 600% in Mexico, 250% in Venezuela and 210% in Chile, a much greater increase than in the developed countries. On the other hand, deaths from other kinds of accident are rising quite slowly, or even standing still. In industrialized and "newly industrialized" countries, accidents are now the main cause of death among women aged up to 34 years and among men aged up to 44. Women again become a high-risk group after the age of 65. Young women mostly suffer in traffic accidents, and men in work accidents. Older women are prey to domestic accidents, usually falls resulting in fracture of the thigh. Home accidents account for about 75% of injuries to people over 65 in the industrialized countries.
So far accidents account for only a small percentage of total deaths in the Third World, but as other causes of death and disability—such as malnutrition and communicable diseases—are gradually overcome, accidents are likely to come to the fore.