Dramatically fewer children are dying of accidental injuries than in the past, but many more are dying violent deaths, according to new research.
One report, in the current issue of Pediatrics, shows that from 1978 to 1991 the use of safety devices such as car seats saved thousands of children’s lives, while homicides and suicides increased.
Another study, published in the current issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, reports that 105 children died violently in or near secondary schools from 1992 to 1994. This is the first nationwide study of violent death in schools, the authors say.
“We need to face the fact that we’re solving some of the causes of childhood injury but not others,” said Dr. David C. Grossman, coauthor of the report in Pediatrics and co-director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle.
Grossman and a colleague at the center, Dr. Frederick P. Rivara, examined government data on injury-related deaths to those 19 and younger from 1978 to 1991. They found that the total incidence of fatal injuries dropped by 26 percent during this period, to 21,367 from 28,905. Deaths caused by accidents, such as automobile crashes, drowning and household fires, dropped by 39 percent, to 14,510 from 23,649.
Much of the credit was given to the increased use of children’s auto seats, seat belts, protective fences around backyard swimming pools and smoke detectors.
But the incidence of death from nonaccidental injuries rose by 47 percent, the researchers found. In particular, there was a 67 percent increase in homicides and a 17 percent increase in suicides, with 4,805 youths dying from these causes in 1991. Nearly all the increase was in deaths from gunshot.
In the current issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported that violent deaths in and around schools were more common than had been thought.
The researchers found that 105 such deaths occurred at secondary schools from 1992 to 1994. Department of Education and the National School Safety Center.
Sixty-one percent of the deaths were homicides, 19 percent were suicides and 77 percent involved guns, according to the report.
Most of the victims as well as the assailants were black or Hispanic boys about 16 years old.
Both of the new reports concluded that a significant portion of violent injuries and deaths to children and teenagers could be prevented by restricting their access to guns.
Grossman’s study cites research that indicates having a gun in the house increases the risk of suicide among teenagers and young adults tenfold and the risk of homicide threefold.