The Economics of Injury and Violence Prevention

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Health economics examines the costs and consequences of health issues, connecting public health science to real-world applications. It 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. 

CDC’s Injury Center applies health economics to the study of opioid overdoses, suicide, child abuse and neglect, intimate partner violence, older adult falls, traumatic brain injury, motor vehicle crashes, and other causes of injuries and violence. We use health economics to identify, measure, value, and compare the costs and consequences of injuries and prevention strategies.

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 Dependenceexternal icon. Costs for spending on health care, opioid use disorder treatment, criminal justice, and lost work productivity, as well as estimates of cost for lost quality of life and lives lost were computed in this study.

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 health care 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.

For more information on Opioid Overdose, visit www.cdc.gov/opioids.

Illustration of the economic impact of the opioid crisis on the U.S. in 2017: $1.02 trillion

Illustration of the total cost of opioid overdose deaths and opioid use disorder in the U.S. in 2017: $1.02 trillion

Illustration of the human and economic toll of the opioid crisis in the U.S. in 2017: $1.02 trillion

State-Level Costs of the 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 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The costs were computed by state for spending on health care, opioid use disorder treatment, criminal justice, and lost work productivity, as well as estimates of cost for lost quality of life and lives lost.

You can explore a data map of the state-level costs of opioid use disorder and fatal opioid overdoses in 2017:

  • Select a state to view costs of opioid use disorder and fatal opioid overdoses
  • Compare cost data across states
  • Save and share state-level cost data as a table or image
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 health care costs each year. A CDC study in the journal Medical Care estimated the annual health care cost of nonfatal TBIsexternal icon by severity level among children and adults in 2016 during the year following a TBI diagnosis.

Key findings include:

  • The total annual health care 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.
Understanding the Costs and Consequences of Injuries and Violence

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. A recent CDC study estimated the medical care cost of U.S. fatal and nonfatal injuries by type of injuryexternal icon.

  • The average medical cost of all fatal injuries was approximately $41,570 per hospitalized patient and $6,880 per emergency department patient. Each year approximately 50,000 people die in hospitals from injuries, and approximately 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 recent CDC study estimated the lost work productivity cost of U.S. nonfatal injuries by type of injuryexternal icon.

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

Motor Vehicle Deaths and Injuries: Costs and Strategies for States

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.

See the cost of deaths from motor vehicle crashes and which age groups and types of road users account for the largest portion of these costs in each state: State-Specific Costs of Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths.

Calculate the expected number and monetized value of 14 effective motor vehicle injury prevention interventions with MV PICCS 3.0: Motor Vehicle Prioritizing Interventions and Cost Calculator for States (MV PICCS).

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Motor Vehicle Prioritizing Interventions Cost Calculator for States (MV-PICCS)

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Programs to Reduce Child Abuse and Neglect: Costs and Strategies for States
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An estimated 1,720 children died from abuse and neglect in 2017, and about 674,000 children were identified as victims of child abuse or neglect by child protective service agencies. Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are essential to preventing child abuse and neglect, and policies and programs supportive of children and families can help.

Estimate the local health and financial impact of selected child abuse and neglect prevention programs by state. These programs are among those with the best available evidence and have published per-child or per-family costs: Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) Prevention Program Cost Calculator.

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Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) Prevention Program Cost Calculator

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Cost of Older Adult Falls and a Call for Prevention
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A recent CDC studyexternal icon 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.

Publications and Applications on the Economics of Injuries and Violence

Cost of Injuries

Cost of Violence

Cost of Unintentional Injuries