Injury deaths

Number of deaths due to injury per 100,000 population.

The 2021 County Health Rankings used data from 2015-2019 for this measure.

Reason for Ranking

Injuries are one of the leading causes of death; unintentional injuries were the third leading cause, and intentional injuries the 10th leading cause, of US mortality in 2017.[1] The leading causes of death in 2017 among unintentional injuries, respectively, were: poisoning, motor vehicle traffic deaths, and falls. Among intentional injuries, the leading causes of death in 2017, respectively, were: firearm suicides, suffocation suicides, and firearm homicides. Unintentional injuries are a substantial contributor to premature death. In 2017, unintentional injuries were the leading cause of death for all groups under age 45.[2] Injuries account for 29% of all emergency department visits, and falls account for nearly one-quarter of those visits.[3]

Key Measure Methods

Injury Deaths is a Rate

Injury Deaths is the number of deaths from planned (e.g. homicide or suicide) and unplanned (e.g. motor vehicle deaths) injuries per 100,000 population. This measure includes injuries from all causes and intents. Rates measure the number of events (e.g., deaths, births, etc.) in a given time period (generally one or more years) divided by the average number of people at risk during that period. Rates help us compare data across counties with different population sizes.

Deaths are Counted in the County of Residence for the Person who Died, Rather than the County Where the Death Occurred

It is important to note that deaths are counted in the county of residence of the deceased. So, even in an injury death occurred across the state, the death is counted in the home county of the individual who died.

Some Data are Suppressed

A missing value is reported for counties with fewer than 10 injury deaths in the time frame.

Measure Limitations

This measure is being used to estimate the overall risk of injury in a county. Ideally, we would include injury hospitalizations and ER visits due to injuries, but these data are not available nationwide. The overall burden of injuries is not captured by the injury mortality rate; injuries that are not fatal have large costs due to emergency room visits and time off work.


The numerator is the number of injury deaths with an underlying cause of injury (ICD-10 codes *U01-*U03, V01-Y36, Y85-Y87, Y89) during the five-year period.


The denominator is the aggregate annual population for the five-year period.

Can This Measure Be Used to Track Progress

This measure can be used to track progress with some caveats. It is important to note that the estimate provided in the County Health Rankings is a 5-year average. However, in most counties, it is relatively simple to obtain single year estimates over time from the resource included below.

Data Source

Years of Data Used


National Center for Health Statistics - Mortality Files

Data on deaths and births were provided by NCHS and drawn from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). These data are submitted to the NVSS by the vital registration systems operated in the jurisdictions legally responsible for registering vital events (i.e., births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and fetal deaths). In prior years of the Rankings, Premature Death was calculated by the National Center for Health Statistics, but this year the Mortality-All County (micro-data) file was requested. This allowed us to calculate Premature Death and Life Expectancy ourselves. While most calculations of mortality rates can be downloaded from CDC WONDER, the calculation of Years of Potential Life Lost and Life Expectancy requires raw data files. 

Digging Deeper
Age 1
Gender 1
Race 1
Education 1
Income 0
Subcounty Area 0

We recommend starting with the CDC WONDER database, which contains information on injury death rates by race, ethnicity, age, gender, geography, cause of death, and more. Rates can be exported as raw or age-adjusted. Small counties might need to combine multiple years of data to see rates, as CDC suppresses any rates when there are fewer than 10 deaths.

In addition, many states support databases of injury-related hospitalizations or emergency department visits. You can find links to these databases in State-Specific Data Sources.


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths: Final Data for 2017. National Vital Statistics Reports. Vol 68, No 9. Accessed January 6, 2020.
[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths: Leading Causes for 2017. National Vital Statistics Reports. Vol 68, No 6. Accessed January 6, 2020.
[3] National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2016 Emergency Department Summary Tables.

See how this component fits into our model
Loading interactive model…

When it comes to developing and implementing solutions to problems that affect communities, evidence matters. The strategies below give some ideas of ways communities can harness evidence to make a difference locally. You can learn more about these and other strategies in What Works for Health, which summarizes and rates evidence for policies, programs, and systems changes.

Establish laws that require bicyclists to wear helmets; laws can apply to children or all bicyclists and can be established at the state or local level
Educate families about safe tap water temperatures during prenatal or well-baby visits at clinic or home visits; often with home safety checks or provision of home water temperature safety equipment

The County Health Rankings provide a snapshot of a community’s health and a starting point for investigating and discussing ways to improve health. Select a state and a measure below to see what’s happening locally.