Epidemiology: How common are burn injuries & deaths?

Burn injuries are a major global health problem. It is essential to understand their epidemiology in order to direct burn prevention programs. Burn injuries are among the top 15 leading contributors to the burden of disease worldwide. Burn survivors have the burden of temporary or permanent disability and economic hardship, for both the victim and the family.

According to the WHO, nearly 11 million people worldwide were burned severely enough to require medical attention in 2004. Approximately 90% of burn injuries occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). They are also among the leading causes of disability-adjusted life years in LMICs.

Deaths due to burn injuries: mortality rates

Burns account for an estimated 180,000 deaths annually.

Over the past few decades, burn-related mortality in high-income countries has decreased. However, the global rate of child burn deaths is still 2.5 per 100,000 across 103 countries.

The highest regional rate is in Sub-Saharan Africa, at 4.5 per 100,000 deaths. In Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, the mortality rate for boys under five due to burns is 17 per 100,000.

Gapminder graph on burn deaths around the world

Who is most at risk?

In LMICs, children are generally most at risk of burn injury.

Over 80% of burn patients are children aged 10 years and below, with children younger than 5 years of age at highest risk.

Scalds appear to be the most common type of injury and affect mainly boys. Adults sustain mostly flame burns.

People vulnerable to burn injury

Patients with co-morbidities, such as blindness, deafness and epilepsy, have a greater risk of burn injuries. Epilepsy is often untreated in LMICs, resulting in a high number of epileptic seizures. This makes these patients exceedingly vulnerable to burn injuries.

Epidemiology: How common are burn injuries & deaths?


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