people are more likely to die from preventable accidents than their married
counterparts, according to a new study from sociologists at Rice University and
the University of Pennsylvania. The study also found that single people and
those with low educational attainment are at greater risk for accidental death.
The study, "The Social Side of Accidental
Death", examines the links among social relationships, socio-economic status
and how long and well people live. The authors found that divorced people are
more than twice as likely as married people to die from what the World Health
Organisation (WHO) cites as the most-preventable causes of accidental death
(fire, poisoning and smoke inhalation) and equally likely to die from the
least-preventable causes of accidental death (air and water transportation
In addition, compared with married adults,
single people are twice as likely to die from the most preventable causes of
accidental death and equally likely to die from the least preventable causes of
accidental death. People with low educational attainment, compared with more
highly educated adults, are more than twice as likely to die from the
most-preventable accidents and equally likely to die from the least-preventable
The researchers compared 1 302 090 adults
aged 18 and older who survived or died from accidents between 1986 and 2006.
The data was from multiple years of the National Health Interview Survey, which
includes demographic information about participants from throughout the 50
states, including age, race and income. Accidental underlying causes of death
are defined through the World Health Organisation’s 10th revision of the
International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and Causes of
Justin Denney, assistant professor of
sociology at Rice, associate director of the Kinder Institute for Urban
Research’s Urban Health Program and the study’s lead author, said it stands to
reason that if social relationships and socio-economic resources prolong life,
then they should be more important in situations where death can reasonably be
avoided and less valuable in situations that closely resemble random events.
“Well-educated individuals, on average,
have greater socio-economic resources, which can be used to their advantage to
prevent accidental death (i.e., safeguarding a home from fire),” Denney said.
“In addition, these individuals tend to be more knowledgeable about practices
that may harm their health, such as excessive alcohol and drug use. And marital
status is influential in that it can provide positive support, may discourage a
partner’s risk and offer immediate support that saves lives in the event of an
Denney hopes the research will encourage
further research of accidental death and how it may be prevented.
The study was co-authored by Monica He, a
2013 Rice graduate and current demography PhD student at the University of
Pennsylvania, and will appear in an upcoming edition of Social Science
Research. The research is available online at http://bit.ly/1dEt3BM and was
funded by Rice University.