Disparities in traumatic brain injury-related deaths—United States, 2020
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Disparities in traumatic brain injury-related deaths—United States, 2020

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  • Alternative Title:
    J Safety Res
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    Traumatic brain injury (TBI) affects how the brain functions and remains a prominent cause of death in the United States. Although preventable, anyone can experience a TBI and epidemiological research suggests some groups have worse health outcomes following the injury.


    We analyzed 2020 multiple-cause-of-death data from the National Vital Statistics System to describe TBI mortality by geography, sociodemographic characteristics, mechanism of injury (MOI), and injury intent. Deaths were included if they listed an injury International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10) underlying cause of death code and a TBI-related ICD-10 code in one of the multiple-cause-of-death fields.


    During 2020, 64,362 TBI-related deaths occurred and age-adjusted rates, per 100,000 population, were highest among persons residing in the South (20.2). Older adults (≥75) displayed the highest number and rate of TBI-related deaths compared with other age groups and unintentional falls and suicide were the leading external causes among this older age group. The age-adjusted rate of TBI-related deaths in males was more than three times the rate of females (28.3 versus 8.4, respectively); further, males displayed higher numbers and age-adjusted rates compared with females for all the principal MOIs that contributed to a TBI-related death. American Indian or Alaska Native, Non-Hispanic (AI/AN) persons had the highest age-adjusted rate (29.0) of TBI-related deaths when compared with other racial and ethnic groups. Suicide was the leading external cause of injury contributing to a TBI-related death among AI/AN persons.

    Practical application:

    Prevention efforts targeting older adult falls and suicide are warranted to reduce disparities in TBI mortality among older adults and AI/AN persons. Effective strategies are described in CDC’s Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, & Injuries (STEADI) initiative to reduce older adult falls and CDC’s Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices for the best available evidence in suicide prevention.

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