Economics of Injury and Violence Prevention

At a glance

Health economics examines the costs and consequences of health issues, connecting public health science to real-world applications. Health economics is used to develop policies and programs that promote healthy lifestyles and positive health outcomes that are also cost-effective for individuals, states, and the nation.

Stock photos of father and son reading, mother and children hugging, and a hand on a computer mouse.

Cost of fatal and nonfatal injury

Unintentional and violence-related injuries cause more than 240,000 deaths among people of all ages in the United States each year. Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for people ages 1-44.

A greater number of people experience nonfatal injuries each year. Nonfatal injuries can cause life-long mental, physical, and financial problems.

Fatal and nonfatal injuries are costly. The 2019 cost of injury in the United States was $4.2 trillion, according to a report in CDC's MMWR. The costs include spending on healthcare, lost work productivity, as well as estimates of cost for lost quality of life and lives lost.

A CDC study estimated the medical care cost of US fatal and nonfatal injuries by type of injury.

  • The average medical cost of all fatal injuries was approximately $41,570 per hospitalized patient and $6,880 per emergency department patient. Each year, about 50,000 people die in hospitals from injuries, and about 30,000 die in emergency departments from injuries.
  • The average one-year medical cost of all nonfatal injuries per person initially treated in an emergency department was approximately $6,620. Each year, there are approximately 28 million emergency department visits for nonfatal injuries.

Injuries can cause lost productivity at work. A CDC study estimated the lost work productivity cost of US nonfatal injuries by type of injury.

People treated for nonfatal injuries in an emergency department lose on average of 11 days of work, valued at $1,590 per person.

State-level cost of fatal injuries

According to the cost of fatal injuries for states report, the states with the highest per capita 2019 cost of fatal injuries were West Virginia, New Mexico, Alaska, and Louisiana. The states with the lowest fatal injury costs were New York, California, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Texas. All states face substantial avoidable costs due to injury deaths.

Explore data on fatal and nonfatal cost of injury‎

Find tables of the medical, work loss, lives lost, and quality of life loss cost for fatal and nonfatal injuries.

Cost of opioid overdose and use disorder

Fatal opioid overdoses and opioid use disorder cost the United States $1.02 trillion in 2017. The most complete accounting to date of America's opioid crisis was released by CDC in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The study computed costs for spending on healthcare, opioid use disorder treatment, criminal justice, and lost work productivity. It also estimated the costs for lost quality of life and lives lost.

This CDC study expands and updates two prior estimates of the cost of the opioid crisis: a 2016 CDC economic cost study and a 2017 report released by the White House Council of Economic Advisors. In 2017, more than 2.1 million people over age 12 had an opioid use disorder, and over 47,000 opioid overdose deaths occurred.

Key findings include:

  • The value of life lost due to overdose deaths was $480.7 billion.
  • Opioid use disorder accounted for $471.0 billion.
  • Almost $35 billion was spent on healthcare and opioid use disorder treatment.
    • Healthcare costs were $31.3 billion.
    • Opioid use disorder treatment was $3.5 billion.
  • Criminal justice spending accounted for $14.8 billion.

State-level cost of opioid crisis‎

Fatal opioid overdoses and opioid use disorder had a significant economic impact on some states in 2017. Researchers focused on the state-level opioid crisis in a report in CDC's MMWR. The costs were computed by state for spending on healthcare, opioid use disorder treatment, criminal justice, and lost work productivity, as well as estimates of cost for lost quality of life and lives lost.

Explore a data map of the state-level costs of opioid use disorder and fatal opioid overdoses in 2017.

CDC Injury Center Opioid Dashboard

Cost of nonfatal traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury. Everyone is at risk for a TBI. TBIs substantially contribute to healthcare costs each year. A CDC study in the journal Medical Care estimated the annual healthcare cost of nonfatal TBIs by severity level among children and adults in 2016 during the year following a TBI diagnosis.

Key findings include:

  • The total annual healthcare cost of nonfatal TBIs was over $40.6 billion.
  • Healthcare costs include $10.1 billion by private insurance, $22.5 billion by Medicare, and $8 billion by Medicaid.
  • More than 2 million nonfatal injuries were related to TBI.

Cost of violence

Youth violence takes a toll on individuals, families, and communities and comes at a high economic cost to the nation.

A research letter in JAMA Pediatric reports on the economic costs of youth violence, finding that costs rose from $105 billion in 2015 to $122 billion in 2020. The greatest share of the costs were firearm homicides among males.

A research brief in AJPM Publications reporting on the economic cost of youth homicide found that youth homicides alone cost the U.S. $86 billion in 2020. Out of $86 billion, injuries from firearms contributed $78 billion (90%), while injuries caused by cuts or stabbings accounted for over $4 billion in economic costs (4%). There was also an estimated $36 billion in economic cost of nonfatal youth violence injuries.

These findings highlight the significant economic burden of youth violence and the impact of injuries caused by weapons—particularly firearms. The results emphasize the importance of evidence-based programs, policies, and practices to prevent youth violence.

Cost of motor vehicle deaths and injuries

More than 30,000 people are killed in motor vehicle crashes each year in the United States. These injuries and deaths have a high economic impact for states. Many evidence-based strategies can significantly reduce the number of injuries and deaths from motor vehicle crashes and their related costs.

Cost Calculator‎

Calculate the expected number and monetized value of 14 effective motor vehicle injury prevention interventions with the Motor Vehicle Prioritizing Interventions Cost Calculator for States (MV-PICCS).

Cost of adverse childhood experiences

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are preventable, potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. Examples of ACEs include neglect, experiencing or witnessing violence, or growing up in a household with substance use problems, mental health problems, or instability due to parental separation or incarceration. A CDC study published in 2023 indicates that nearly 63% of U.S. adults had an ACE, associated with an annual economic burden of $14.1 trillion—$183 billion in medical spending and $13.9 trillion in lost healthy life years. This is $88,000 per affected adult annually and $2.4 million over their lifetime.

There were differences in economic burden by state: The annual economic burden per affected adult was lowest in North Dakota ($45,000) and highest in Arkansas ($155,000). The economic burden was highest among adults with 4 or more ACEs.

ACEs are preventable and related to substantial adult health costs. CDC resources can help states and communities use the best available evidence to prevent ACEs.

Cost of older adult falls

A CDC study published in 2018 showed that the estimated medical cost of older adult falls across the U.S. healthcare system is $50 billion annually. This includes $38 billion paid by Medicare and Medicaid and $12 billion paid by private and other payers.

Older adult falls can be prevented. Initiatives like Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries (STEADI) can improve health and decrease the future economic burden of older adult falls. STEADI recommendations include screening older adults to identify their fall risk, assessing at-risk individuals to identify their modifiable fall risk factors, and intervening by using effective strategies to reduce fall risk factors.