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BACKGROUND: Information on trauma-related deaths in low and middle income countries is limited but needed to target public health interventions. Data from a health and demographic surveillance system (HDSS) were examined to characterise such deaths in rural western Kenya. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Verbal autopsy data were analysed. Of 11,147 adult deaths between 2003 and 2008, 447 (4%) were attributed to trauma; 71% of these were in males. Trauma contributed 17% of all deaths in males 15 to 24 years; on a population basis mortality rates were greatest in persons over 65 years. Intentional causes accounted for a higher proportion of male than female deaths (RR 2.04, 1.37-3.04) and a higher proportion of deaths of those aged 15 to 65 than older people. Main causes in males were assaults (n=79, 25%) and road traffic injuries (n=47, 15%); and falls for females (n=17, 13%). A significantly greater proportion of deaths from poisoning (RR 5.0, 2.7-9.4) and assault (RR 1.8, 1.2-2.6) occurred among regular consumers of alcohol than among non-regular drinkers. In multivariate analysis, males had a 4-fold higher risk of death from trauma than females (Adjusted Relative Risk; ARR 4.0; 95% CI 1.7-9.4); risk of a trauma death rose with age, with the elderly at 7-fold higher risk (ARR 7.3, 1.1-49.2). Absence of care was the strongest predictor of trauma death (ARR 12.2, 9.4-15.8). Trauma-related deaths were higher among regular alcohol drinkers (ARR 1.5, 1.1-1.9) compared with non-regular drinkers. CONCLUSIONS: While trauma accounts for a small proportion of deaths in this rural area with a high prevalence of HIV, TB and malaria, preventive interventions such as improved road safety, home safety strategies for the elderly, and curbing harmful use of alcohol, are available and could help diminish this burden. Improvements in systems to record underlying causes of death from trauma are required.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Accidental Falls, Accidents, Traffic, Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Alcohol Drinking, Cause of Death, Demography, Epidemiological Monitoring, Female, Health Surveys, Humans, Kenya, Male, Middle Aged, Multiple Trauma, Rural Population