Suicide, falls, violence, and snowmachines: A study of data gathered between 2016 and 2021 shows that Alaska has the highest traumatic brain injury-related death rate in the United States, surpassing the national average by more than double. The study was published by the State of Alaska’s Section of Epidemiology this week.
About 43% of all TBI-related deaths in Alaska were attributed to suicide, with young adults disproportionately affected.
Individuals between the ages of 25 and 34 experienced TBI-related mortality rates from suicide that were over three times the national average in 2019. Additionally, one in four deaths among individuals under the age of 30 were connected to TBIs.
Unintentional falls accounted for a significant proportion of traumatic brain injuries in Alaska, contributing to 39% of TBI-related emergency department visits between 2016 and 2021, and 44% of TBI-related hospitalizations from 2017 to 2021.
Among adults aged 15 to 34 years, motor vehicle crashes were the most common cause of both TBI-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Unintentional falls dominated as the primary mechanism of injury for emergency room visits among individuals 35 years and older, as well as for hospitalizations among those 45 years and above.
The study revealed several other demographic statistics:
- The mortality rates were higher among those 85 years and older, and among males, American Indian/Alaska Native people, and those residing in the Northern Region of the state.
- Patients hospitalized following a TBI in Alaska with evidence of intentional self-harm were over eight times more likely to succumb to their injuries than those with unintentional injuries.
- Alaska Natives have a disproportionately higher rate of TBI-related mortality, with an age-adjusted rate exceeding three times the national average.
- Rates of TBI attributable to assault were significantly higher among males, being 1.6 and 3.7 times higher than females for emergency visits and hospitalizations, respectively.
- In terms of TBI-related hospitalizations, motor vehicle crashes took precedence in the Southwest and Northern regions, with all-terrain vehicle and snowmachine-related injuries accounting for a striking 39% of all TBI hospitalizations in the Northern region.
TBIs occur when individuals experience a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or a penetrating head injury that disrupts normal brain function, ranging from mild to severe cases that can lead to prolonged unconsciousness, coma, or even death.