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Safety in Numbers: Are Major Cities the Safest Places in the United States?
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    Study objectives

    Many US cities have experienced population reductions, often blamed on crime and interpersonal injury. Yet the overall injury risk in urban areas compared with suburban and rural areas has not been fully described. We begin to investigate this evidence gap by looking specifically at injury-related mortality risk, determining the risk of all injury death across the rural-urban continuum.


    A cross-sectional time-series analysis of US injury deaths from 1999 to 2006 in counties classified according to the rural-urban continuum was conducted. Negative binomial generalized estimating equations and tests for trend were completed. Total injury deaths were the primary comparator, whereas differences by mechanism and age were also explored.


    A total of 1,295,919 injury deaths in 3,141 US counties were analyzed. Injury mortality increased with increasing rurality. Urban counties demonstrated the lowest death rates, significantly less than rural counties (mean difference=24.0 per 100,000; 95% confidence interval 16.4 to 31.6 per 100,000). After adjustment, the risk of injury death was 1.22 times higher in the most rural counties compared with the most urban (95% confidence interval 1.07 to 1.39).


    Using total injury death rate as an overall safety metric, US urban counties were safer than their rural counterparts, and injury death risk increased steadily as counties became more rural. Greater emphasis on elevated injury-related mortality risk outside of large cities, attention to locality-specific injury prevention priorities, and an increased focus on matching emergency care needs to emergency care resources are in order.

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  • Funding:
    1R03HD061523-01/HD/NICHD NIH HHS/United States
    5R01CE001615-02/CE/NCIPC CDC HHS/United States
    F32HS018604-01/HS/AHRQ HHS/United States
    K08-HS017960/HS/AHRQ HHS/United States
    P30 ES013508/ES/NIEHS NIH HHS/United States
    R01 AA016187/AA/NIAAA NIH HHS/United States
    R01 AA020331/AA/NIAAA NIH HHS/United States
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