A review of injury epidemiology in the UK and Europe: some methodological considerations in constructing rates

BMC Public Health. 2009 Jul 10:9:226. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-9-226.


Background: Serious injuries have been stated as a public health priority in the UK. However, there appears to be a lack of information on population-based rates of serious injury (as defined by a recognised taxonomy of injury severity) at national level from either official statistics or research papers. We aim to address this through a search and review of literature primarily focused within the UK and Europe.

Methods: The review summarizes research papers on the subject of population based injury epidemiology published from 1970 to 2008. We examined critically methodological approaches in measuring injury incident rates including data sources, description of the injury pyramid, matching numerator and denominator populations as well as the relationship between injury and socioeconomic status.

Results: National representative rates come from research papers using official statistics sources, often focusing on mortality data alone. Few studies present data from the perspective of an injury pyramid or using a standardized measure of injury severity, i.e. Injury Severity Score (ISS). The population movement that may result in a possible numerator - denominator mismatch has been acknowledged in five research studies and in official statistics. The epidemiological profile shows over the past decades in UK and Europe a decrease in injury death rates. No major trauma population based rates are available within well defined populations across UK over recent time periods. Both fatal and non-fatal injury rates occurred more frequently in males than females with higher rates in males up to 65 years, then in females over 65 years. Road traffic crashes and falls are predominant injury mechanisms. Whereas a straightforward inverse association between injury death rates and socio-economic status has been observed, the evidence of socioeconomic inequalities in non-fatal injuries rates has not been wholly consistent.

Conclusion: New methodological approaches should be developed to deal with the study design inconsistencies and the knowledge gaps identified across this review. Trauma registries contain injury data from hospitals within larger regions and code injury by Abbreviated Injury Scale enabling information on severity; these may be reliable data sources to improve understanding of injury epidemiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology