According to Statistics Canada, each year approximately 15 per cent of Canadians sustain an injury which is sufficiently severe to limit their normal activities. For working-age Canadians, in addition to a potentially disabling impact, such injuries can result in missed work days and in serious cases, long-term disability.
A severe or catastrophic injury, such as a traumatic brain injury resulting from a serious fall or car accident, may result in death. Injury is, in fact, the leading cause of death for younger Canadians, under the age of 44.
Falls are, by far, the most common cause of injury for Canadians. This includes falls experienced in all situations, including day-to-day activities, at work, and during sports and leisure activities.
For seniors, falling more frequently results in serious injury, but a fall can be dangerous regardless of age - falling accounts for about one half of serious injuries for adolescents and about 35 percent for adults of working age.
The clear message in these numbers is that everything we do to prevent a fall can have a significant impact on our risk of injury – such as wearing appropriate footwear during icy conditions, keeping our properties safe from falling hazards, and exercising prudence during sports activities and in the workplace.
After falling, the other leading causes of personal injury in Canada are: suicide or self-harm, unintentional poisoning and automobile accidents. Falls and automobile accidents exact the highest economic cost from our economy and the total cost of preventable injuries is huge: almost $30 billion annually, including over $20 billion in direct health care costs (Parachute.ca). Added to the financial cost, a serious injury often results in pain, reduced health and a diminished quality of life for the affected person as well as their families.
Most common types of injury
The most frequently-occurring injuries, by a wide margin, are sprains and strains, and such injuries result in more than half the cases of serious injury. Broken bones and fractures are the second-most common type of injury (17 per cent). However, there are significant differences in the frequency of kinds of injuries sustained by age group. For example, seniors experience a much higher rate of fractures and broken bones than working-age Canadians, even higher than adolescents. Further, seniors are more often impacted by bruises, scrapes and blisters than are younger Canadians.
Similarly, there are differences in where injuries occur in the body, by age group. Young people are far more likely to injury their feet, ankles, hands and wrists, than are seniors. On the other hand, seniors are more likely to injure their shoulders, arms and elbows, while lower-back injuries are most common among adults of working age.
When do Injuries Occur?
In Canada, the highest percentage of injuries occur during the summer season. The group with the greatest probability of being injured are adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19, who are twice as likely to suffer an injury as adults.
Overall, about 35 percent of injuries happen while the person is engaged in a sport or exercise activity. However, this number is much higher for young people between 12 and 19 – for this age group, about two thirds of injuries occur during sports. Further, adolescent males are more prone to serious injury than any other group in Canada.
For the working population between 20 and 64, about half of serious injuries occur either during sports or in the workplace, and working-age adults are far more likely to injure themselves through overexertion or strenuous movements than Canadians in other age groups.
For seniors, the majority of injuries are associated with tripping or stumbling, and injuries most often happen during the completion of household chores or mundane activities such as walking. And, not surprisingly, the period of recovery and disability are typically much more challenging and longer for older Canadians.
It’s not possible to avoid all hazards that we could conceivably encounter, or an accident caused by a negligent property owner or driver; however, by understanding our risk of injury at any age, we can take steps to avoid preventable injuries which can have a significant impact on our quality of life going forward.