Home Death and Injury by the Numbers
People see their home as their haven, but it's where most preventable injuries and deaths can occur.
Using the word accidental to describe injuries and death gives the impression that they were completely unforeseen and unavoidable. However, most of them are considered preventable — and, in 2020, according to the National Safety Council, there were 200,955 recorded cases. Of those, only 22% didn’t occur in homes or communities.
It becomes more concerning when we look at where accidental deaths and injuries happen. Only preventable injury-related deaths at work decreased from 2019 to 2020. Motor-vehicle, public and home deaths all increased. The latter sector had the highest jump — home deaths went up by 21.1% in 2020, according to the National Safety Council.
Frequency of Home and Community Deaths in the US
Fatalities in homes and communities happen more frequently than one might think. Home and community deaths have reached 156,300 from 52,700 deaths over 21 years.
The graph above shows deaths from two sectors — home and public. Home deaths are those that happen within your premises. The latter includes fatalities from recreational facilities, transportation (except motor vehicles) and public buildings.
There were only two instances when numbers decreased. In 2000, the numbers went down by 800 from 1999. Likewise, 2018 had 2000 fewer incidents than 2017. Otherwise, there has generally been an upward trend.
There are two five-digit spikes worth noting. The first was in 2016 when numbers increased by 12,000. The second was in 2020, with 24,900 more incidents compared to 2019.
Home Death and Death Rates
The trend of home deaths mimics that of total home and community fatalities. As the number of accidental deaths increases, so do those in homes. Home deaths consistently contribute more than half of the total fatalities. It went from a low of 56.26% in 2000 to a high of 72.6% in 2020.
Before 2020, there were three instances wherein home deaths increased by double digits. These were in 2001 (13.70%), 2005 (11.27%) and 2016 (14.08%). However, 2020 marked the first time when the increase exceeded 20%. With 113,500 incidents, that's 21.13% higher than in 2019.
It refers to deaths caused by unintentional incidents. It does not include fatalities from natural causes, illnesses or deliberate actions like suicide.
Home Death by Age Group
Statistics on home accidents show that the number of deaths varies among different age groups. People between 25 to 64 contribute to around 60% of all home deaths. Almost a quarter of fatalities involved those 75 and older.
Three age groups contributed to 83.7% of all home accident deaths. These are:
- Between 25 to 44: 31.28%
- Between 45 and 64%: 29.07%
- 75 and older: 23.35%
However, it's essential to note that the death rate for individuals 75 and older is almost three times as high as the two other age groups with the most home deaths.
Deaths include visitors, your child's playmates, and even trespassers, not just you and your family. It may be wise to have personal liability insurance for this reason.
Leading Causes of Fatalities in Homes
Most people associate their home with safety. However, the number of deaths caused by home accidents makes you wonder what hazards homes have that we might not be seeing.
Only a quarter of 1.4 million fires in 2020 happened in homes, but it caused 74% of fire deaths and 76% of fire injuries. Swimming pools are usual sources of drowning incidents. Another hazard is having everyday items scattered on the floor, which can lead to falls. As a responsible homeowner, it's best to shop for home insurance. It can shield you against costs should any of these accidents occur.
Poisoning and falling contribute to around 86.3% of fatalities from home accidents in 2020. Each of the following causes contributed less than 3% of the total count:
- Choking: 2.64%
- Fires, Flames and Smoke: 2.29%
- Mechanical Suffocation: 1.32%
- Drowning: 1.15%
Although these may seem insignificant in comparison, it’s still worth noting. These still translate to thousands of lives. The remaining causes — natural heat, cold temperatures and firearms — account for less than 1% each.
Poisoning, which includes drug overdose, caused 69,900 home deaths in 2020. It was the top cause for three age groups. It accounted for 93.62% of deaths between 15 to 24-year-olds, 94.87% for those aged 25 to 44 and 80.88% for those aged 45 to 64.
Cleaning supplies like bleach and detergents are fatal if ingested. The same goes for substances like paint and pesticides. It’s wise to keep cleaning products up high and away from small children.
Poisoning includes incidents of a drug overdose. You can also experience poisoning at home from excess alcohol, caffeine or carbon monoxide.
Although it affects people of all ages, falling is more common among older individuals. Falling is the primary cause of home death for those between 65 and 74, contributing 42%. For those who are 75 and older, the number goes up to around 76%.
Everyday items such as walkers and toys may cause someone to trip and fall. Seniors who have pets may be at higher risk unless they purposely chose pets that are ideal for older adults.
Some locations in a home are more prone to slips and falls. Examples of these are stairs and bathrooms.
Although it isn't the top cause for any specific age group, it comes second for those 75 and older and third for those four and below. Choking hazards include toys, marbles and even jewelry.
Some types of food may also be choking hazards. Peanuts, popcorn, whole grapes and hard candy are examples. For older adults, eating too fast or trying to swallow large pieces of food can result in choking with the potential of being fatal.
Fires, Flames and Smoke
Cooking fires are common in homes, caused by unattended stoves or frying pans. Electrical surges may cause sparks that could quickly turn into a fire. Candles that fall over or cigarettes that aren't put out are common causes of home fires.
If you don't put the flammable item out correctly, you may sustain severe injuries from second or third-degree burns. Besides burns, you may also inhale large quantities of smoke, which is toxic to the body.
The National Safety Council defines mechanical suffocation as fatalities caused by strangulation or hanging. Being trapped in enclosed spaces without enough air leads to suffocation. It's the leading cause of home accident deaths for young children less than five years old.
Young children can get caught in the cords from windows or blinds while playing. Some children accidentally climb into refrigerators and can't get out. Some household materials like plastic bags are also hazardous.
Like mechanical suffocation, drowning as a cause of home death is more common for children.
It may happen in homes with swimming pools that don't have fencing, allowing children to wander and fall in. However, other hazards include hot tubs or even regular bathtubs. While bathing your toddler, ensure that they are constantly supervised.
Death Rates and Causes of Deaths in Home by State
The death rate across the U.S. in 2020 is 61 per 100,000 population. However, it varies between states. When you look at the death rate at a state level, 21 states come out with a lower figure compared to the country's death rate.
Our research found that the top reasons for preventable injury-related deaths across all states are poisoning, falls and choking.
MoneyGeek explores how death rates differ from state to state through the map below. Those in darker shades indicate a higher figure, while lighter colors suggest the opposite.
Without looking at specific causes of fatalities from home accidents, seven states had death rates below 50 per 100,000 population in 2020. These are Texas (44), Utah (45), New York (45.3), Hawaii (46.5), California (46.6), Nebraska (46.6) and Maryland (48.7).
In contrast, eight states had a death rate higher than 80. But West Virginia is worth highlighting, being the only state with a triple-digit death rate of 125.6.
West Virginia had the highest poisoning-related death rate at 73.1. That's a significant difference from the District of Columbia's death rate of 56.7, which came in second. The two states with the lowest death rates were South Dakota and Nebraska, with 10.9 and 10.2, respectively.
Falling, the second-leading reason for preventable injury-related deaths, resulted in a 33.2 death rate in Wisconsin. Alabama had the lowest with 6.1.
North Dakota had the highest death rate related to choking at 3.7, while South Dakota, Wyoming and Vermont had no choking incidents.
Causes of Death in Homes Over Time
We already know that the trend for the total number of deaths from home accidents generally increased over time. However, does the same pattern emerge for the different causes?
The graph below explores this further by looking at the trends of different causes over time.
Most of the leading causes of home accidents follow the same trend — they generally increase yearly.
Poisoning-related deaths only dipped twice in 34 years — in 1990 and 2018. For all other years, it increased. The most significant spike was from 2019 to 2020, when numbers went from 53,400 to 69,900. That's a 30.9% increase.
The number of deaths from falls has followed an upward trend since 2001. From 2011 to 2019, these increments amounted to less than 10%. However, 2020 saw a 10.63% increase, the highest spike since 2007.
There was no increase in choking incidents between 2017 and 2019, but there were 300 additional choking-related deaths in 2020.
Causes of Death in Homes by Age Group
Another angle to consider is how home accidents' leading cause of death varies between age groups. Poisoning and falls still appear as significant contributors, but the graph below shows that none of the three age groups had similar top reasons.
The leading cause of deaths from home accidents involving children 14 years old and younger is mechanical suffocation, with 1,040 incidents in 2020. That's almost half of all fatalities among children 14 and younger that year. Drowning follows it with 680 deaths.
For the 15 to 64 age bracket, poisoning, which includes drug overdose, contributed to 88.5% of fatalities. That's over 82,000 lives. The following two highest causes are falls (5.3%) and drowning (2.9%).
Falling is the top reason for home deaths for individuals 65 and older. It contributed to over 36,000 fatalities, over three-quarters of all incidents.
Home Death and Injury FAQ
The number of fatalities from home accidents can be eye-opening, and you may have some questions about it. MoneyGeek has compiled a few frequently asked questions and their answers for those interested in learning more about home and community fatalities.
Expert Insights on Home Deaths and Injuries
MoneyGeek went beyond the research and asked industry leaders to share their insight regarding preventable injury-related deaths. Their feedback may provide additional information on the subject.
- The number of deaths that have occured in homes has increased in 2019 and again in 2020. What factors do you think contribute to this trend?
- What hazards can be found in homes that we usually gloss over? How can these be potentially fatal to us and our guests?
- What advice can you give people who want to make their homes safer?
CEO of The Annuity Expert
Owner and CEO of VeryInformed.com
Home accidents are common, but they can also be preventable. Here are some online sources to help you determine strategies for keeping you and your loved ones safe.
- Aging in Place: Older adults often need to take greater safety measures than someone in their 30s or 40s. See how you can make your home safer and manage your finances smarter.
- 6 Spring Cleaning Tips to Prevent Insurance Claims and Protect Your Home and Wallet: No one wishes for accidents to happen. Although they’re unforeseen, you can take steps to lessen the chances.
- Hazard Insurance: Do You Need It for Your Home?: You may have heard about home insurance, but maybe not hazard insurance. Find out what it is, whether you need it and how it connects to your home insurance policy.
- How to Buy Homeowners Insurance: Everything You Need to Know: Purchasing home insurance can be overwhelming because there are many factors to consider. MoneyGeek’s guide walks you through the different steps to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
- How Much Home Insurance Coverage Do You Need to Protect Your Home?: Part of being a responsible homeowner is ensuring you’re protected against possible expenses. Home insurance is the best way to take preventative action, providing coverage for personal property, your home’s structure and injuries within your home.
About the Author
- National Fire Protection Association. "Fire Loss in the United States During 2020." Accessed July 31, 2022.
- National Safety Council. "All Injuries Overview." Accessed July 31, 2022.
- National Safety Council. "Deaths in the Home." Accessed July 31, 2022.
- National Safety Council. "Historical Preventable Fatality Trends — Deaths by Cause." Accessed July 31, 2022.
- National Safety Council. "Home and Community Overview." Accessed July 31, 2022.