5. Accidents caused the death of 2,400 persons in 2018

In addition to stumbling and falling, other typical fatal accidents were poisonings, traffic, drownings, asphyxiations and fires. Here, all poisonings apart from alcohol poisonings that belong to alcohol-related causes in the national time series classification are considered accidents.

In 2018, accidents caused the death of nearly 2,400 persons, 1,500 men and 900 women. Accidents caused four per cent of all deaths. Six per cent of men and three per cent of women died in accidents.

Starting from 2004, the number of accidental deaths relative to the population decreased almost continuously for ten years. In particular, fatal traffic accidents have decreased. However, since 2016 the number of fatal accidents has slowly increased for three years in a row. The number of fatalities from accidents was over 200 higher in 2018 than in 2015. In 2016 to 2018, drowning and poisoning accidents resulting in death increased.

Figure 9. Accident mortality and separately deaths from accidental falls in 1970 to 2018

Figure 9. Accident mortality and separately deaths from accidental falls in 1970 to 2018

The commonest accident leading to death is stumbling or falling. In 2018, more than 1,200 persons died from stumbles or fall, which is one-half of all fatal accidents. A majority of fatal falls, nine out of ten, happened to persons aged over 65. The average age at death caused by stumbles was 80 years for men and 87 years for women. Relative to the number of living people, elderly men had more fatal stumbles than women.

In total, 305 person died from accidental poisoning (excl. alcohol poisonings) in 2018 of whom 214 were men and 91 women. Compared with 2016, poisoning deaths increased by around 60 cases. The number of poisoning deaths is only slightly lower than ten years ago. The average age of those dying of accidental poisonings was 38 years for men and 53 years for women. The majority of accidental poisonings are poisonings from multiple substances, involving several different pharmaceuticals, as well as alcohol and/or drugs.

One-half of accidental poisoning deaths were drug-related deaths as defined by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), where, in most cases, the primary substance was an opioid (e.g. buprenorphine, tramadol, codeine, fentanyl). The accidental poisonings that by definition were not deaths caused by an overdose of drugs were often caused by an overdose of tranquillisers and sleeping medicine (e.g. benzodiazepines).

The second most common fatal accidents were transport accidents. There were 243 deaths in transport accidents (excl. drowning accidents in water traffic) in 2018. The number of deaths was one-third less than one year earlier. Suicides committed in traffic or persons who died from having a seizure in traffic are not in the statistics included in deaths in transport accidents.

In 2018, altogether 164 persons drowned, 42 of whom in water traffic. The number of drownings grew clearly from 2017. In 2017, there were 126 drowning deaths. Most drowning victims, eight out of ten, were men. Nearly one in six drowning victims were aged 65 or over. Deaths by drowning increased from 2017, in particular among elderly people. Only one drowning victim was aged under 15. Despite the growth in deaths by drowning, they have decreased since the beginning of the 2000s when there were some 200 drowning victims per year (Figure 10). Drowning accidents include drowning from falling into water and drowning while swimming or boating.

In 2018, altogether 46 persons died in accidental fires while in 2014 the number of deaths was 54. The majority, or three out of four, of the victims were men. Deaths in accidental fires do not include deaths in deliberately lit fires. There were eight persons that committed suicide with fire or smoke. There were 51 deaths caused by the heat of sauna and 70 deaths caused by hypothermia.

Accidental deaths caused by animals are rare in Finland. In 2018, nine persons died in these types of accidents. Most, or four deaths, were caused by wasp stings. In the 2000s, an average of 11 persons per year have died in accidents caused by animals. The number has decreased slightly in recent years. Most accidents resulting in death have in the 2000s been caused by an elk (88 deaths), a horse (44) and a dog (28).

Figure 10. Drowning accidents deaths in 2006 to 2018

Figure 10. Drowning accidents deaths in 2006 to 2018

Intoxication commonest among victims of accidental fires

Intoxication was a factor in accidental deaths in around one in six accidents. The share of intoxicated persons among the deceased has decreased in recent decades. In 2018, sixteen per cent of those who died in fatal accidents were intoxicated, while ten years ago the corresponding share was 24 per cent.

In 2018, intoxication at the time of the accident was most common for those that died in fires. One-half of them were under the influence of an intoxicant. Nearly one-half of those who died by accidental drowning, in the sauna or of hypothermia outdoors had also been intoxicated at the time of the accident. In traffic deaths, nearly one in five were intoxicated. By contrast, in stumbling accidents, of which a majority occurred among persons aged over 70, less than one in ten were under the influence of an intoxicant.

In total, 331 persons that died in accidents were under the influence of an intoxicant, of whom a majority were intoxicated from alcohol, 290 persons. In addition, 41 persons were under the influence of various intoxicants (drug/pharmaceutical/alcohol) (Appendix table 2). In the statistics on causes of death, intoxication is determined from the death certificate. In addition to alcohol intoxication, the figures also include intoxication from drugs and pharmaceuticals. The figures do not include accidental alcohol, pharmaceutical and drug poisonings.

Source: Causes of death, Statistics Finland

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

Director in charge: Jari Tarkoma

Updated 16.12.2019

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Causes of death [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-5078. 2018, 5. Accidents caused the death of 2,400 persons in 2018 . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 17.10.2021].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2018/ksyyt_2018_2019-12-16_kat_005_en.html