Injuries and violence (2024)


Injuries result from road traffic crashes, falls, drowning, burns, poisoning and acts of violence against oneself or others, among other causes.

Of the 4.4 million injury-related deaths, unintentional injuries take the lives of 3.16 million people every year and violence-related injuries kill 1.25 million people every year. Roughly 1 in 3 of these deaths result from road traffic crashes, 1 in 6 from suicide, 1 in 10 from homicide and 1 in 61 from war and conflict.

For people age 5-29 years, 3 of the top 5 causes of death are injury-related, namely road traffic injuries, homicide and suicide. Drowning is the sixth leading cause of death for children age 5-14 years. Falls account for over 684,000 deaths each year and are a growing and under-recognized public health issue.

Tens of millions more people suffer non-fatal injuries each year which lead to emergency department and acute care visits, hospitalizations or treatment by general practitioners and often result in temporary or permanent disability and the need for long-term physical and mental health care and rehabilitation. For example, there has been a significant rise in road traffic injuries in the African region since 2000, with an almost 50% increase in healthy life-years lost.


Beyond death and injury, exposure to any form of trauma, particularly in childhood, can increase the risk of mental illness and suicide; smoking, alcohol and substance abuse; chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer; and social problems such as poverty, crime and violence. For these reasons, preventing injuries and violence, including by breaking intergenerational cycles of violence, goes beyond avoiding the physical injury to contributing to substantial health, social and economic gains.

Injuries and violence are a significant cause of death and burden of disease in all countries; however, they are not evenly distributed across or within countries – some people are more vulnerable than others depending on the conditions in which they are born, grow, work, live and age. For instance, in general, being young, male and of low socioeconomic status all increase the risk of injury and of being a victim or perpetrator of serious physical violence. The risk of fall-related injuries increases with age.

Twice as many males than females are killed each year as a result of injuries and violence. Worldwide, about three quarters of deaths from road traffic injuries, four fifths of deaths from homicide, and two thirds of deaths from war are among men. In many low- and middle-income countries, however, women and girls are more likely to be burned than men and boys, in large part due to exposure to unsafe cooking arrangements and energy poverty. Across all ages, the three leading causes of death from injuries for males are road traffic injuries, homicide and suicide, while for females they are road traffic injuries, falls and suicide.

Poverty also increases the risk of injury and violence. About 90% of injury-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Across the world, injury death rates are higher in low-income countries than in high-income countries. Even within countries, people from poorer economic backgrounds have higher rates of fatal and non-fatal injuries than people from wealthier economic backgrounds. This holds true even in high-income countries.

The uneven distribution of injuries that makes them more prevalent among the less advantaged is related to several risk factors. These include living, working, travelling and going to school in more precarious conditions, less focus on prevention efforts in underprivileged communities, and poorer access to quality emergency trauma care and rehabilitation services. These issues are explained in more detail below.

Risk factors and determinants:

Risk factors and determinants common to all types of injuries include alcohol or substance use; inadequate adult supervision of children; and broad societal determinants of health such as poverty; economic and gender inequality; unemployment; a lack of safety in the built environment, including unsafe housing, schools, roads and workplaces; inadequate product safety standards and regulations; easy access to alcohol, drugs, firearms, knives and pesticides; weak social safety nets; frail criminal justice systems; and inadequate institutional policies to address injuries in a consistent and effective manner, in part due to the availability of sufficient resources. In settings where emergency trauma care services are weak or there is inequitable access to services, the consequences of injuries and violence can be exacerbated.


Injuries and violence are predictable and there is compelling scientific evidence for what works to prevent injuries and violence and to treat their consequences in various settings. This evidence has been collated into technical documents that can serve as a guide to support decisions for scaling up injury and violence prevention efforts – see:

  • Save LIVES: a road safety technical package
  • Preventing drowning: an implementation guide
  • Violence prevention: the evidence
  • INSPIRE: seven strategies for preventing violence against children
  • RESPECT women: preventing violence against women
  • LIVE LIFE: suicide prevention implementation package
  • SAFER: a world free from alcohol related harms

Analysis of the costs and benefits for several selected injury and violence prevention measures shows that they offer significant value for money, making investment in such measures of great societal benefit. For example, with regard to child injury prevention, a study found that every US$ 1 invested in smoke detectors saves US$ 65, in child restraints and bicycle helmets saves US$ 29, and in-home visitation saves US$ 6 in medical costs, loss productivity and property loss. In Bangladesh, teaching school-age children swimming and rescue skills returned US$ 3000 per death averted. The social benefits of injuries prevented through home modification to prevent falls have been estimated to be at least six times the cost of intervention. It is estimated that in Europe and North America, a 10% reduction in adverse childhood experiences could equate to annual savings of 3 million Disability Adjusted Life Years or US$ 105 billion.

Post-injury care:

For all injuries and violence, providing quality emergency care for victims can prevent fatalities, reduce the amount of short-term and long-term disability, and help those affected to cope physically, emotionally, financially and legally with the impact of the injury or violence on their lives. As such, improving the organization, planning and access to trauma care systems, including telecommunications, transport to hospital, prehospital and hospital-based care, are important strategies to minimize fatalities and disabilities from injury and violence. Providing rehabilitation for people with disabilities, ensuring they have access to assistive products such as wheelchairs, and removing barriers to social and economic participation are key strategies to ensure that people who experience disability as the result of an injury or violence may continue a full and enjoyable life.

WHO response:

WHO supports efforts to address injuries and violence in many ways, including by:

  • developing and disseminating guidance for countries on evidence-based policy and practice including those listed above;
  • providing technical support to countries through programmes such as the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety and the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children;
  • documenting and disseminating successful injury prevention approaches, policies and programmes across countries;
  • monitoring progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal targets linked to injury, violence prevention, mental health and substance use – namely targets 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 5.2, 5.3, 16.1 and 16.2 – through global status reports on road safety and violence prevention, and on alcohol and health, and world reports on preventing suicide;
  • through informal networks chaired by WHO such as the UN Road Safety Collaboration and the Violence Prevention Alliance, and others towards which WHO contributes like the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, coordinating global efforts across the UN system including decades of action, ministerial conferences and weeks and days dedicated to injury-related topics to improve road safety and end violence;
  • clarifying the role of Ministries of Health as part of multi-sectoral injury-prevention efforts, as reflected in Preventing injuries and violence: a guide for ministries of health, including its role in collecting data; developing national policies and plans; building capacities; facilitating prevention measures; providing services for victims, including emergency trauma care; promulgating legislation on key risks; and training journalists to improve reporting on these issues with a focus on solutions and by co-hosting biannual global meetings and regional meetings of Ministry of Health focal points for violence and injury prevention; and
  • co-hosting and serving on the International Organizing Committee for the series of biannual World Conferences on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, the 14th edition of which will take place in Adelaide, Australia, in 2022.
Injuries and violence (2024)


What is the definition of injury and violence? ›

In public health practice, injury is damage or harm to the body resulting in impairment or destruction of health. Violence is intentional injury — the use of power or force against oneself or another person. Outcomes of injury and violence can be lifelong disability, death, and trauma.

How do injuries affect you mentally? ›

Physical injury and mental health are closely linked. A serious injury or chronic illness can cause mental health problems including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Poor mental health can negatively impact on recovery rates of the physical injury or illness.

When an injury changes your life? ›

Life after injury often involves a continuous process of facing new challenges. Depending on the type of injury, these may include memory loss, concentration problems, difficulty processing information, physical problems, and problems with sight and hearing.

Why is it important to avoid injuries? ›

Injury prevention should be an important part of every physical activity, because it not only helps you achieve your training goals but also keeps you healthy and safe. Performing complex mathematics without adequate preparation can hurt your brain; running a marathon without adequate preparation can hurt your body.

What are the 5 main types of violence? ›

Using these as a basis, we shall distinguish five inter-related types of violence:
  • physical violence.
  • verbal violence (including hate speech)
  • psychological violence.
  • sexual violence.
  • socio-economic violence.

What are the four causes of violence? ›

The causes of violence are multiple. The psychological literature usually divides these causes into four highly overlapping categories: (1) biological, (2) socialization, (3) cognitive, and (4) situational factors.

What are the mental stages of injury? ›

As such, you may experience the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Recognizing these feelings is the first step to managing them, owning them and moving through them.

How to mentally recover from an injury? ›

Mental Health Tips for Recovering from an Injury
  1. Accept and acknowledge your feelings. ...
  2. Control what you can. ...
  3. Set clear goals. ...
  4. Focus on the present. ...
  5. Accept or ask for help. ...
  6. Use visualization as a tool. ...
  7. Cultivate optimism.
Jun 8, 2021

What do injuries teach you? ›

Injuries expose our weaknesses, both physical and mental, and encourage our vulnerabilities to come to light. Opportunities to step back, reassess, and move smarter abound. The whole comeback process is filled with lessons that carry over to all of our training and even into everyday aspects of life too.

What happens to your body after a traumatic injury? ›

A common symptom that arises from traumatic experiences is hyperarousal (also called hypervigilance). Hyperarousal is the body's way of remaining prepared. It is characterized by sleep disturbances, muscle tension, and a lower threshold for startle responses and can persist years after trauma occurs.

What are the psychological responses to injuries? ›

Common negative psychological responses to injury include: loss of identity. anger. fear.

How does the body respond to a traumatic injury? ›

You may also experience more physical reactions such as: Stomach upset and trouble eating. Trouble sleeping and feeling very tired. Pounding heart, rapid breathing, feeling shaky.

What is the importance of not moving an injured person? ›

As a general rule, it is important to avoid moving any sick or injured patient because of the risks of causing complications to the underlying condition. An exception to this rule includes moving a person from life-threatening danger to a safer location.

How to stop intentional injuries? ›

There are many things you can do to help prevent these crimes. Stay in well-lit areas; do not use any form of drugs, alcohol or otherwise; carry protective weapons you have been trained to use; and keep your distance from people, places, or situations you feel may be dangerous.

What is the leading cause of injuries? ›

For all ages, the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths in 2021 were poisoning, motor vehicle collisions, and falls. Community conditions can impact the safety of a place differently for different age groups, genders, and for people in various occupations, neighborhoods, or socioeconomic classes.

What is the legal definition of injury? ›

An injury is a harm suffered by a person due to some act or omission done by another person, and can generally give rise to a civil tort claim or a criminal prosecution.

What is the legal definition of violence? ›

(1) Act of physical violence . — The term “act of physical violence” means any act involving— (A) an assault or other infliction or threat of infliction of death or bodily harm on an individual; or (B) damage to, or destruction of, real or personal property.

How do you define injuries? ›

An injury is damage to your body. It is a general term that refers to harm caused by accidents, falls, hits, weapons, and more.

What is the definition of injury and harm? ›

injure, harm, hurt, damage, impair, mar mean to affect injuriously. injure implies the inflicting of anything detrimental to one's looks, comfort, health, or success. badly injured in an accident. harm often stresses the inflicting of pain, suffering, or loss.


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