Published: 17 December 2018

Over 1,200 died from accidental falls – the majority aged over 75

According to Statistics Finland's statistics on causes of death, a total of over 1,200 persons died as a result of accidental stumbles and falls in 2017. This was more than half of all accidental deaths. In recent years, the number of accidental falls especially among men has increased. Four out of five falls resulting in death occurred to persons aged over 75. The most common place where accidents happened was at home.

Men’s and women’s fatal accidental falls 1971 to 2017

Men’s and women’s fatal accidental falls 1971 to 2017

Deaths from accidental falls have increased significantly. In the 1970s they caused the death of around 500 persons yearly in Finland, whereas 1,200 persons died, 700 men and 500 women in 2017. Relative to population size, the number of deaths caused by falls has more than doubled in forty years. During the last ten years men’s mortality from accidental falls has increased by over 10 per cent, whereas correspondingly women’s mortality has remained the same.

Falls resulting in death increase with age. Fewer than 10 persons aged under 35 died from stumbles or falls in 2017. The majority of stumbling accidents occurred to persons aged over 75. The average age at death caused by falls was 81 years for men and 88 years for women. Relative to the population, the older the age group in question, the more deaths caused by falls occurred, for both women and men. Furthermore, in relative terms, clearly more falls leading to death occurred to men than to women in all age groups.

Men’s and women’s mortality from accidental falls by age in 2017

Men’s and women’s mortality from accidental falls by age in 2017

The number of fatal accidental falls has increased during the last decades mostly due to the population’s ageing age structure. When taking into account the population size and the change in age structure, fatal falling accidents among women have in fact decreased since the 1970s and especially in the 2000s. On the contrary, for men the age-standardised mortality adjusted for age structure has not developed as favourably, but mortality was slightly higher in 2017 compared to mortality in the 1970s and at the beginning of the 1980s.

Alcohol plays a small part in fatal falling accidents among the elderly

Around one-third of persons under 65 who suffered fatal falls were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. In contrast, the part played by alcohol in falling accidents among persons over 65 was very small, only a few per cent.

In 2017, around one-half of fatal falling accidents occurred at home and slightly more than one-third in social welfare and health care service entities. The statistics include cases where the person has died immediately after the accidental falling or several weeks later due to different complications from the stumble. Typical injuries leading to death were intracranial injuries and femur fractures. Head injuries were more common among men than among women, who in relative terms correspondingly suffered more hip and femur fractures. In the analysis based on months of death, there were no signs that there are clearly more deaths due to accidental falls in the winter months than in other seasons.

Number of persons that died from alcohol decreased in 2017

Compared to the previous year, the number of persons that died from alcohol-related causes decreased in 2017. Just under 1,600 persons died from alcohol, which was almost 200 persons fewer than in 2016.

Alcohol mortality has decreased in recent years, especially in younger age groups. In contrast, alcohol mortality among women aged 65 and over and men aged 75 and over has increased during the past five years. The majority of persons who died of alcohol-related causes are still of working age but the share of persons aged over 65 has grown from 17 to 37 per cent over the past ten years. In 2017, the average age for men who died of alcohol-related causes was 61 years and that of women 62 years.

The number of deaths from alcohol has followed the changes in alcohol consumption, even though alcohol-related deaths usually call for long-term harmful use of alcohol that lasts for several years. Several different alcohol-related diseases used as primary causes of death and accidental alcohol poisonings have been collected into alcohol-related causes of death. Diseases related to alcohol use, such as liver and heart diseases, cause a majority of deaths from alcohol-related causes. The share of alcohol poisonings in deaths from alcohol-related causes has decreased from 26 to 14 per cent over a ten-year period. In 2017, altogether 213 persons died from alcohol poisoning.

Increase in the number of suicides from previous years

The number of deaths from suicide has increased in two successive years. In 2017, altogether 824 persons committed suicide. This was over 30 suicides more than in the year before and over 90 more than in 2015. Despite the development in recent years, suicide mortality has decreased by over 20 per cent in ten years, by 22 per cent for men and 16 per cent for women.

Suicides mortality 1971 to 2017

Suicides mortality 1971 to 2017

The number of suicides has decreased relatively evenly since 1990, when more than 1,500 suicides were committed in Finland. Men’s suicide mortality has decreased more than women’s. However, men still commit clearly more suicides than women. Three out of four persons who committed suicide were men.

During the last ten years the decrease in suicide mortality is most clearly visible among middle-aged persons. In contrast, the suicide mortality among persons aged under 25 has not decreased in a similar way. The average age of those who committed suicide was 49 for women and 46 for men in 2017. More than 100 persons aged under 25 committed suicide.

Causes of death 2017

54-group time series classification Total Males Females Total Age-standardised mortality rate Age-standandardised mortality rate
Number Number Number % Change
2016–2017, %
Change
2007–2017, %
Deaths total 53 670 26 859 26 811 100 –2,8 –13,9
Diseases of the circulatory system 19 077 9 553 9 524 36 –5,5 –27,9
Neoplasms 12 949 6 905 6 044 24 –1,2 –5,4
Dementia, Alzheimer's disease 9 390 3 059 6 331 17 –0,6 +41,9
Accidents 2 325 1 519 806 4 +2,2 –20,3
Disease of the respiratory system 2 084 1 263 821 4 –5,0 –29,4
Alcohol related diseases and accidental poisoning by alcohol 1 558 1 160 398 3 –10,5 –32,3
Suicides 824 611 213 2 +4,2 –20,6
Other causes of death 5 463 2 789 2 674 10 - -

Source: Causes of death, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Airi Pajunen 029 551 3605, Jari Hellanto 029 551 3291, Kati Taskinen 029 551 3648, kuolemansyyt@stat.fi

Director in charge: Jari Tarkoma

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Updated 17.12.2018

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Causes of death [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-5078. 2017. Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 8.12.2019].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2017/ksyyt_2017_2018-12-17_tie_001_en.html