241696 Leading causes of mortality among American college students at 4-year institutions

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 12:50 PM

James C. Turner, MD , Department of Student Health, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Adrienne Keller, PhD , Department of Student Health, National Social Norms Institute at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Background. Estimates of mortality rates among America's college students are typically inferred from age-stratified general population rates, because national epidemiologic data do not identify student status among decedents. Purpose. Identify cause-specific mortality rates among college students 18-24 years old at four year institutions of higher education in the United States. Significance. More accurate information about college student mortality rates is critical for planning prevention and health services. Methodology. 157 four year institutions participated in an American College Health Association survey of student deaths. There are no statistically significant differences between the study group, comprising 1,361,304 students (18% of total population), and the population on many institutional or enrollment characteristics. Mortality rates were calculated based on annualized enrollment totals. Alcohol related deaths were estimated based on national data identifying the proportions of accidental deaths associated with alcohol. Findings/Results. Observed annualized mortality rates per 100,000 students (with 95% Confidence Intervals) were as follows: suicide 6.18 (4.97-7.38), alcohol related traffic deaths 3.37 (2.48-4.26), unknown cause 3.00 (2.16-3.84), cancer 1.94 ( 1.27-2.62), alcohol related non-traffic injury 1.49 (0.90-2.09), and homicide 0.53 (0.18-0.88). Males had significantly higher rates of suicide and non-significantly higher rates of alcohol-related mortality. There were no significant differences between public and private schools or among census regions. Conclusions/Recommendations. Mortality rates were significantly lower among these students than the same aged general population. Suicide is the leading cause of death; alcohol related mortality was substantially lower than predicted. These findings have important implications regarding prevention and intervention strategies on America's college campuses.

Learning Areas:
Administration, management, leadership
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
At the end of the presentation, participants will be able to… 1. List the multi-institutional studies of causes of mortality among college students 2. Compare the mortality rates for the leading causes of mortality among college students aged 18-24 years old at 4 year institutions. 3. Discuss the misperceptions about causes of mortality and the effect such misperceptions have on prevention and intervention priorities.

Keywords: Mortality, College Students

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: As President of the American College Health Association, I commissioned this study and supervised every aspect of it.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.