5. Stumbling the commonest reason for fatal accidents

The most common reasons for deaths from accidents are fatal falls and stumbles, fatal traffic accidents, drownings, poisonings and fatal fires. In this publication, all other poisonings apart from alcohol poisonings that belong to alcohol-related causes are considered accidents.

In 2015, accidents caused good four per cent of all deaths. Accidents (excl. alcohol poisonings) were the cause of the death of nearly 2,200 persons, of whom 1,400 were men and 800 women. The number of deaths from accidents has slowly and continuously fallen since 2004. In 2004, around 2,600 persons died from accidents. Fatal traffic accidents in particularly have decreased. Women's accident mortality is clearly lower than men's but the accident mortality of men has developed particularly favourably in recent years and the difference between men and women has narrowed.

Examined by age group, nearly two out of three persons who died from accidents in 2015 were aged over 65. Women who died from accidents were on average 20 years older than men who died from accidents. The difference is primarily explained by that the share of old persons’ fatal stumbles or falls among all who died from accidents is higher among women than among men.

Figure 8. Accident mortality and separately deaths from accidental stumbles and falls in 1970 to 2015

Figure 8. Accident mortality and separately deaths from accidental stumbles and falls in 1970 to 2015

The commonest accident leading to death is caused by stumbling or falling. In 2015, stumbling and falling caused the death of over 1,100 persons, which is around one-half of all fatal accidents. A little under one-half of stumbling accidents took place inside one's home or in its immediate vicinity and one-quarter in care institutions. Nine out of ten fatal falls happened to persons aged over 65. In absolute numbers, slightly more deaths occurred among elderly women than elderly men but relative to the number of living people, elderly men had more stumbles resulting in death than women in relative terms (Figure 8).

The second most common fatal accidents were transport accidents. There were 268 deaths in transport accidents (excl. drowning accidents in water traffic) in 2015. The number of deaths has decreased by over one-third in the past ten years. Suicides committed in traffic are not included in deaths in transport accidents in the statistics.

Drowning accidents include drowning from falling into water and drowning while swimming or boating. In 2015, altogether 139 persons drowned, 28 of whom in water traffic. Most drowning victims, over 80 per cent, were men. Deaths by drowning have decreased clearly since the beginning of the 2000s when there were over 200 drowning victims per year (Figure 9).

In 2015, altogether 61 persons died in accidental fires while in 2014 the number of deaths was 70. Seven out of ten victims were men. Deaths in accidental fires do not include deaths in deliberately lit fires. There were six persons that committed suicide with fire and smoke. There were 31 deaths caused by the heat of sauna and 52 deaths caused by hypothermia.

Figure 9. Mortality from drowning accidents in 1998 to 2015

Figure 9. Mortality from drowning accidents in 1998 to 2015

300 fatal accident victims were intoxicated

In 2015, alcohol was a contributing factor in one in six fatal accidents, on average. Sixteen per cent of those who died in fatal accidents were intoxicated, i.e. 300 persons (Appendix table 2). Ten years ago, the corresponding share was 25 per cent of fatal accidents. In the statistics on causes of death, alcohol intoxication is determined from the death certificate where the doctor signing the certificate judged that alcohol had contributed to the death. The figures exclude alcohol and drug poisonings where alcohol or drugs have not directly caused the death.

In 2015, intoxication was most common in accidental sauna and drowning deaths, where around one-half of victims were under the influence of alcohol. Nearly one-half of the persons that died in fires were also intoxicated. In traffic deaths, one in five were intoxicated at the time of death. By contrast, in stumbling accidents, of which a majority occurred among persons aged over 70, only one in ten were under the influence of alcohol.

Number of deaths from drugs have decreased

The total number of fatal poisonings (excl. alcohol poisonings) has fallen by 23 per cent from 2010. In 2015, their number was 243 cases, which was the same as in the year before. The average age of those dying of fatal poisonings was 40 years for men and 58 years for women.

In 2015, the number of deaths caused by drugs in Finland was 166, which is 10 fewer than in the previous year. When calculating drug-related deaths, Statistics Finland uses a classification (Selection B) compiled by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). The Monitoring Centre publishes statistics and reports on its Internet site: www.emcdda.europa.eu .

According to the EMCDDA, cases where the primary cause of death is drug psychoses, accidental poisoning, self-inflicted poisoning, and poisoning with undetermined intent are calculated as drug-related deaths. Deaths caused by drug psychoses are usually a result of drug addiction and long-term drug use. Accidental drug poisonings are cases where the death occurs shortly after the consumption of the substance. They can often also be referred to as overdoses. In 2015, there were 119 accidental overdoses. The number is smaller than in previous years (2014: 122 and 2013:143). Self-inflicted poisonings with drugs are suicides (primary cause of death). In 2015, twenty-four suicides were committed with drugs. In poisonings with undetermined intent, the intent remains unclear.

Table 3. Drug-related mortality 2000 to 2015

  Total Males Females Total Males Females
Number Number Number Per 100 000 mean population Per 100 000 mean population Per 100 000 mean population
2000 134 109 25 2,6 4,3 0,9
2001 110 78 32 2,1 3,1 1,2
2002 97 69 28 1,9 2,7 1,1
2003 101 76 25 1,9 3,0 0,9
2004 135 96 39 2,6 3,8 1,5
2005 126 95 31 2,4 3,7 1,2
2006 138 107 31 2,6 4,2 1,2
2007 143 116 27 2,7 4,5 1,0
2008 169 120 49 3,2 4,6 1,8
2009 175 130 45 3,3 5,0 1,7
2010 156 117 39 2,9 4,4 1,4
2011 197 156 41 3,7 5,9 1,5
2012 213 161 52 3,9 6,1 1,9
2013 201 148 53 3,7 5,5 1,9
2014 176 141 35 3,2 5,2 1,3
2015 166 127 39 3,0 4,7 1,4

The drugs referred to in the EMCDDA's classification are mainly opioids. In addition to opioids, drugs also refer to cannabis and cannabinoids, other hallucinogens, and stimulants suitable for abuse, such as amphetamine and its derivatives. In 2015, four out of five drug-related deaths were associated with overdoses of opioids.

The numbers of deaths have been calculated in accordance with the WHO's recommendation based on the substance judged as most influential. In many cases, the death is the result of multiple substance poisoning where the person has also digested other substances like alcohol and/or psychopharmacons.

Considerably fewer women than men die from drugs. In 2015, women's share of all deaths from drugs was one-quarter. Sixteen per cent of the persons that died accidentally from drugs were women but in suicides committed with drugs, the share of women was clearly higher, over one-half. Most drug-related deaths in absolute numbers occurred among persons aged 30 to 34.


Source: Causes of death, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Airi Pajunen 029 551 3605, Jari Hellanto 029 551 3291, kuolemansyyt@stat.fi

Director in charge: Jari Tarkoma


Updated 30.12.2016

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Causes of death [e-publication].
ISSN=1799-5078. 2015, 5. Stumbling the commonest reason for fatal accidents . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 16.10.2019].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2015/ksyyt_2015_2016-12-30_kat_005_en.html