A recent study published by the American Journal of Public Health
reports that suicide has now overtaken car accidents as
the leading cause of death due to injury in the United States. The study paints a rather grim picture for the pharmaceutical drug companies, while being rather optimistic for the car manufacturing industry. The study was based on statistics compiled by The National Center for Health Statistics
Between the period of 2000 to 2009, deaths related to suicide has increased by 15%, while it has decreased by 25% for motor-vehicle related accidents. The news is particularly damaging to the pharmaceutical drug companies, as there was a 128% increase in the unintentional poisoning rate. Moreover, drug overdose attributed for 75% of unintentional poisoning deaths nationwide, with prescription drugs
accounting for 3 quarters of that share. Much of the prescription drug suicide rate can be attributed to the rise of opioid based drug use over the past few decades. Opioid drugs, commonly referred to as “pain killers,” such as OxyContin , Vicodin and Methadone account for 40 percent of all poison related deaths. Most concerning is that the study found a whopping 402% increase in the use of prescription opioids in the decade between 1997 to 2007.
The study raises more than a few eyebrows concerning the actions of the pharmaceutical industry. Companies such as Johnson and Johnson, and Merck have been under heightened scrutiny, as many suggest that they introducing unsafe drugs into the marketplace in spite of the risks. In light of several major drug lawsuits such as Actos
(type 2 diabetes), Yaz
(birth control) and Chantix
(smoking suppresant), among others, drug companies are gaining an increasing dreadful reputation for placing company profits ahead of consumer safety.
On a brighter note, car accident injury related deaths have seen a gradual decrease over the past decade. While much of this success is forged by better car safety and technology, the car industry does not deserve all the credit. Recent driving initiatives, such as better drunk driving, and cell phone use enforcement has certainly helped curtail the number of driving related deaths. Most recently, lawmakers have pushed hard to end the use of texting while driving.
Of note, economic variables, specifically the recent financial crisis was not taken into account in the study. While there is no definitive studies that establish suicides caused by the economic meltdown, most studies suggest that it does play a significant role. In England, the British Medical Journal reported that 1,000 suicides were tied to unemployment. In Greece, the rate of suicide has increased by 24%. And, while it is difficult to determine how much of this is related to the economy, and how much to other factors, history has proven it to play a significant role. The United States has experienced elevated numbers of suicide in past instances of an economic downturn, such as the Great Depression, the 1970’s oil embargo, and the stock market crash of the late 1980’s.
Overall, the leading causes of death in America are:
- Heart disease: 599,413
- Cancer: 567,628
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 137,353
- Stroke : 128,842
- Accidents or accidental injuries: 118,021
- Alzheimer’s: 79,003
- Diabetes: 68,705
- Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,692
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 48,935
- Suicide: 36,909