National Records of Scotland

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Accidental Deaths

Accidental Deaths

Categories of Causes of Accidental Deaths

This page describes how the categories of the causes of accidental deaths that appear in Table 2 are defined in terms of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision (ICD-10), and provides notes on some of them.

More detailed breakdowns of the numbers of deaths in each category (by age, sex and specific cause of death) in a given year are available from that year's edition of Vital Events Reference Table 6.4, which can be found within the Vital Events Reference Tables section of this website. For example, that table provides the numbers of deaths separately for each of several different types of transport accident (e.g. ‘pedestrian injured in collision with car’), and for each of several different types of fall (but only to the extent that National Records of Scotland (NRS) has received the information that it needs to distinguish between the different types).

Transport accidents (ICD-10 codes V01-V99) - mainly road accidents, but includes deaths occurring in Scotland in accidents involving other forms of transport. In some cases, the information that NRS obtains, from the death certificate or elsewhere, does not indicate the type of transport accident or how the person was involved. For example, NRS may be told that the person was injured in a road accident, but not the type(s) of vehicle that were involved or whether the person was a pedestrian or in (say) a car. The deaths from accidents involving road vehicles that are included here may differ slightly from those that are counted in Transport Scotland's road accident statistics, for a number of reasons which include (a) NRS's figures are based on the date on which the death was registered, whereas Transport Scotland's are based on when the accident occurred; and (b) NRS's figures include deaths caused by accidents (e.g.) on private roads and drives, and in car parks and farmyards, whereas Transport Scotland counts only deaths from accidents which occurred on public roads.

Falls (ICD-10 codes W00-W19) - in only about 1-in-7 of these cases (on average) does the information that NRS obtains, from the death certificate or elsewhere, indicate the type of fall (e.g. on or from stairs or steps, or on the same level involving ice or snow).  In most cases, the death certificate refers only to a ‘all’ or to an injury which is likely to be the result of a fall (such as ‘fractured neck of femur’) - if the latter, and the deceased was aged 75 or over, NRS assumes that the injury is the result of an accidental fall, and counts the death accordingly (following advice from its Medical Adviser).

Drowning and submersion (ICD-10 codes W65-W74) - includes drowning in a bath as well as drowning outdoors.

Other accidental threats to breathing (ICD-10 codes W75-W84) - includes inhalation of gastric contents, choking on food and other accidental obstruction of the respiratory tract.

Exposure to smoke, fire and flames (ICD-10 codes X00-X09) - includes deaths caused by the collapse of, or jumping or falling from, a burning building or structure.

Exposure to forces of nature (ICD-10 codes X30-X39) - most of these deaths are the result of exposure to excessive natural cold.

Poisoning by, and exposure to, noxious substances (ICD-10 codes X40-X49) - there is a break in the series between 2010 and 2011, due to a change in the rules for coding ‘drug abuse’ deaths from ‘acute intoxication’, and ‘alcohol intoxication’ deaths, as explained on the Accidental deaths -The definition of the statistics page of this website

Other specified causes of death (ICD-10 codes W20-W64,W85-W99,X10-X29,X50-X58) - includes accidents involving falling objects, machinery, firearms, machinery, household appliances, and water and air transport.

Sequelae of accidents (ICD-10 codes Y85-Y86) - this means the late effects of accidents, a year or more afterwards. An example would be when serious injuries sustained in a road accident cause other medical problems and lead eventually to death.

Exposure to unspecified factor (ICD-10 code X59) - these are accidental deaths for which the death certificate refers to an injury (e.g. ‘head injury’, ‘fractured pelvis’ or ‘spinal fractures’), and any consequential medical problems, but does not indicate the kind of accident that had occurred, and NRS has not received any information about it from other sources. When an injury could be the result of (e.g.) an assault, a road accident or a fall from a height, NRS cannot count the death against a specific cause (unless the deceased's age is such that NRS can assumes that it was due to a fall).

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