Introduction: More military personnel die of injuries each year than any other cause. This paper provides a basic epidemiologic description of injury deaths in the military.
Methods: Using fatality data from the Department of Defense Directorate of Information and Operations Reports and population data from the Defense Manpower Data Center, death rates of men and women in the military services for unintentional injury, suicide, homicide, and illness were calculated for the 1980-1992 period.
Results: From 1980 to 1992, injuries (unintentional injuries, suicides, and homicides combined) accounted for 81% of all nonhostile deaths among active duty personnel in the Armed Services. The overall death rate due to unintentional injuries was 62.3 per 100,000 person-years. The suicide rate was 12.5, the homicide rate 5.0, and the death rate due to illness 18.4. From 1980 to 1992 mortality from unintentional injuries declined about 4% per year. The rates for suicide and homicide were stable. Men in the services die from unintentional injuries at about 2.5 times the rate of women and from suicides at about twice the rate of women. Women in the military, however, have a slightly higher homicide rate than men.
Conclusion: Injuries (unintentional injuries, suicides, and homicides) are the leading cause of death among active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces, accounting for about four out of five deaths. The downward trend for fatal unintentional injuries indicates the success that can be achieved when attention is focused on preventing injuries. Further reduction in injury mortality would be facilitated if collection and coding of data were standardized across the military services.