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5. Accident mortality decreased for women

Typical accidents leading to death are fatal stumbles and falls, poisonings, transport accidents and drownings. Here all other poisonings apart from alcohol poisoning, which belongs to alcohol-related causes in the national time series classification, are considered accidents.

In 2020, accidents caused the death of a total of 2,200 persons in Finland, which is nearly the same as in the year before. Accident mortality relative to the population has been declining almost continuously since 2004. Growth was visible in the number of fatal accidents in 2016 to 2018, but the growth halted in 2019.

In 2020, accident mortality decreased by nearly two per cent from 2019. However, mortality among men and women developed in different directions over the year. Men's mortality from accidents grew by three per cent from the year before, while women's mortality decreased by over nine per cent (Figure 9). The number of deaths from accidents grew from the previous year in drownings and poisonings (excl. alcohol poisonings). Decreases occurred in stumbling accidents and deaths from hypothermia.

Two-thirds of those who died in accidents were still men. Accidents caused four per cent of all deaths, five per cent for men and three per cent for women.

Figure 9. Accident mortality and separately deaths from accidental falls in 1970 to 2020

Figure 9. Accident mortality and separately deaths from accidental falls in 1970 to 2020

Falling accidents of aged women diminished

The most common accident leading to death was stumbling or falling. In 2020, around 1,150 persons died from stumbles or falls, which is over one-half of all fatal accidents.

Two-thirds of fatal stumbles happened to persons aged over 80. The average age at death caused by stumbling accidents was 82 years for men and 88 years for women.

In 2020, the number of stumbling accidents decreased by around three per cent from the previous year. Among women, stumbling accidents especially among women aged over 80 decreased from the previous year. By contrast, men's fatal stumbling accidents increased somewhat. Relative to the number of living people, men had more fatal stumbles than women.

More accidental poisonings for men than in the year before

In 2020, a total of 310 persons died of accidental poisoning (excl. alcohol poisoning), of whom three-quarters were men. Compared with 2019, poisoning deaths increased by around 30 persons. The average age of those dying of accidental poisonings was 34 years for men and 48 years for women. The majority of accidental poisonings are poisonings from multiple substances, involving several different pharmaceuticals, as well as alcohol and/or drugs.

More than one half of the accidental poisoning deaths in the cause of death statistics for 2020 were drug-related deaths as defined by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). The accidental poisonings that by the EMCDDA’s definition were not deaths caused by drugs were mostly caused by an overdose of tranquillisers and sleeping medicine (e.g. benzodiazepines).

The second most common fatal accidents were transport accidents. There were 225 deaths in transport accidents (excl. drowning accidents in water traffic) in 2020. The number of deaths was 16 higher than in 2019. Suicides committed in traffic or persons who died from having a seizure in traffic are not included in the statistics in deaths in transport accidents.

Number of drownings grew from 2019

In 2020, altogether 151 persons drowned accidentally, 23 of whom in water traffic. The number of drownings grew from the previous year. In 2019, there were 132 drowning deaths. Most drowning victims, eight out of ten, were men. Over one half of drowning victims were aged 65 or over.

Among children drowning deaths decreased from the year before. There were five drownings (incl. drownings in water traffic) among children aged under 15, while the number was eight in the year before. Deaths by drowning have decreased since the beginning of the 2000s when there were around 200 drowning victims per year (Figure 10). Drowning accidents include drowning from falling into water and ice and drowning while swimming or boating. The number of pedestrians who died by falling into ice grew from the previous year's 7 to 26 persons in 2020.

In 2020, altogether 42 persons died in accidental fires while in the previous year the number of deaths was 48. The vast majority of the victims, two out of three, were men. Deaths in accidental fires do not include deaths in deliberately lit fires. In addition, 51 deaths were caused by the heat of sauna (2019:48 deaths). Deaths caused by hypothermia numbered 46, which is one half fewer than in 2019.

Accidental deaths caused by animals are rare in Finland. In 2020, five persons died in these types of accidents. The accidents were caused by an elk, a horse and a dog. In the 2000s, an average of nine persons per year have died in accidents caused by animals in the past 10 years. Most accidents resulting in death in ten years have been caused by an elk (21 deaths), a dog (20), a horse (18) and a wasp (18).

Figure 10. Drowning accidents deaths in 1996 to 2020

Figure 10. Drowning accidents deaths in 1996 to 2020

Intoxication a contributing factor in every sixth accidental death

Intoxication was a factor in accidental deaths in around every sixth accident. The share of intoxicated persons in accidental deaths has decreased in the 2000s. In 2020, altogether 16 per cent of those who died accidentally were under the influence of intoxicants at the time of the accident, which is the same as in the year before.

In total, 312 persons who died in accidents in 2020 were under the influence of an intoxicant, of these a majority were intoxicated from alcohol, 277 persons. In addition, 35 persons were under the influence of various intoxicants (drug/pharmaceutical/alcohol) (Appendix table 2).

In 2020, intoxication at the time of the accident was most common for those that died of the heat of sauna and of fires. Nearly one half of them were under the influence of an intoxicant. At least every third of those who died by accidental drowning, suffocated from food or died of hypothermia outdoors had also been intoxicated at the time of the accident. In transport accidents, 29 per cent of those who died in accidents were intoxicated at the time of the accident, while in the previous year the share had been under one quarter. By contrast, in fatal stumbling accidents, of which a majority occurred among persons aged over 80, fewer than one in ten were under the influence of an intoxicant.

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: Airi Pajunen 029 551 3605, Kati Taskinen 029 551 3648, Jari Hellanto 029 551 3291,

Head of Department in charge: Hannele Orjala

Updated 10.12.2021

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Causes of death [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-5078. 2020, 5. Accident mortality decreased for women . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 14.4.2024].
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