United Kingdom

Accidental deaths

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • Accidental deaths amongst the under-16s have almost halved over the last decade, from 470 in 1999 to 240 in 2009.
  • Children from manual backgrounds are somewhat more likely to die in accidents than other children.  As with infant deaths, therefore, there is a marked difference by social class and, while the numbers are coming down for all, the difference remains the same.

Why this indicator was originally chosen

Accidents are the commonest cause of hospital admission for children aged 5-16 years. 1  They are also by far the biggest single cause of childhood deaths, causing nearly one half of all deaths for 1-19 year olds. 2 Furthermore, accidental deaths remain an area of marked differences between the social class groups.

Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows the annual number of deaths due to external causes among those under 16.  The data sources are ONS Mortality Division (England and Wales) and General Registrar Office (Scotland), although the data is not publicly available.  The data relates to Great Britain.

‘Accidental deaths’ encompasses all forms of accidental death, including traffic accidents, poisoning, falls and drowning as well as suicides and homicides (ICD-10 codes V01-X59).  The data is based on year of registration rather than year of occurrence.

The second graph shows the relative likelihood of such deaths split by social classes I to IIINM and IIIM to V according to the social class of the father (in most cases the social class of the mother is not known).  The data source is ONS Mortality Division (the data is not publicly available), the data relates to England and Wales, and 2001 is the latest year for which such data is available.

The actual data upon which the second graph is based is the number of deaths by social class of father.  To turn these absolute figures into rates requires some assumptions to be made about the number of children in each social class.  It has been assumed that 44% of children aged 0-15 are from social classes I-IIINM and the other 56% are from social classes IIIM-V.  These proportions have been chosen as they are the estimated proportions of births by social class in the early 1990s (based on ONS childhood, infant and perinatal mortality statistics).  These proportions have then been applied to the ONS population estimates for the number of children aged 0-15 in each year to derive the estimated rates.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  An important qualification to the split by social class is that around a third of such deaths in England and Wales are unclassified by social class, due either to a lack of information or because no socio-economic class can be attributed.

External links

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

Overall aim:  Improve children and young people’s safety

Lead department

Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Official national targets


Other indicators of progress

Children and young people who have experienced bullying.

Initial assessments for children’s social care carried out within 7 days of referral.

Hospital admissions caused by unintentional and deliberate injuries to children and young people.

Preventable child deaths as recorded through child death review panel processes.

The numbers

Graph 1

Total number of accidents
1995 545
1996 519
1997 518
1998 468
1999 472
2000 413
2001 389
2002 375
2003 369
2004 326
2005 318

Graph 2

Number of accidents per 100,000 children aged under 16
Year Social class I to IIINM Social class IIIM to V Total
1993 3.5 6.4 5.1
1994 4.0 5.2 4.6
1995 3.4 5.3 4.5
1996 3.5 4.9 4.3
1997 3.1 4.6 4.0
1998 2.5 4.3 3.5
1999 3.0 4.0 3.5
2000 2.8 3.4 3.2
2001 2.6 3.6 3.1
1. Jarvis, S., Towner, E. and Walsh, S., in Botting B (ed) The health of our children, 1995, page 95. 
2. The health of children in Wales, The Welsh Office, 1997, page 49.