Objective.

The purpose of this study was to analyze causes of injury hospitalization/death by individual year of age and by specific causes of injury and to examine how well aggregate age groups represented individual year-of-age rates.

Methods.

Hospital discharge data and death certificate data for California residents age 0 to 19 years with a principal external cause of injury code (E-code) of E800 to E869, E880 to E929, or E950 to E999, calendar year 1997, were analyzed. Annual rates of injury hospitalization/death by year of age were calculated using combined hospital discharges and deaths as the numerator for major causes and important subcategories. For comparison, rates of injury hospitalization/death were calculated for conventional vital statistics age groups: <1 year, 1 to 4 years; 5 to 9 years, 10 to 14 years, and 15 to 19 years.

Results.

In 1997 in California, 35 277 children and adolescents 0 to 19 years were hospitalized and 1934 died as a result of injury, a ratio of 17 hospitalizations to 1 death. The distribution was bimodal with rates highest among 18-year-olds (732/100 000) and 1-year-olds (495/100 000). Except for children who were 5 to 9 years of age, the group rates for all injuries were not reflective of the individual year-of-age rates. In specific categories of injuries, variation in rates by year of age were masked by age group rates for unintentional poisoning among 1- to 4-year-olds, self-inflicted poisoning for 10- to 19-year-olds, falls from playground equipment among 5- to 9-year-olds, falls from furniture among 1- to 4-year-olds, and motor vehicle occupant injury rates among 10- to 19-year-olds. The peak rate of falls from playground equipment among 6-year-olds (34/100 000) was more than twice the rate for 9-year-olds (15/1000,000). Motor vehicle occupant injury rates doubled between 10 and 14 years of age and quadrupled between 14 and 18 years of age.

Conclusions.

Analyses using conventional age groups did not identify the age of highest risk for many causes of childhood injury. Changes in the rates often transected the traditional age groups and were not apparent with conventional age group analysis. These data can inform on the age at which to begin a specific injury intervention and on how to allocate resources. These data allow pediatricians and other health professionals to be anticipatory in providing injury prevention counseling. The greatest impact can be achieved by making the counseling topic most age appropriate in anticipation of the high-risk period.

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