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More than 4 lakh ‘Accidental Deaths’ reported in 2016 while deaths due to ‘Natural Causes’ decrease


The total number of accidental deaths in India was 4.18 lakh in 2016, slightly more than the 4.13 lakh reported in 2015. More than 8600 of these deaths were due to natural causes which is a 10-year low. Number of traffic accidents and number of deaths due to these accidents have both increased in 2016.

An accidental death is a death caused due to an unplanned event. This either could be a result of a natural disaster or due to an occurrence of deliberate or negligent human conduct. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) publishes a report annually– ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India’ (ADSI), which provides data on accidental deaths and suicides.

In this story, we analyse the trends and details relating to accidental deaths as per the latest report i.e. ADSI-2016 report.

The rate of Accidental deaths has reduced over the past two years

The number of accidental deaths for the year 2016 was 4,18,221. This is a slight increase over the previous year i.e. 4,13,457 in the year 2015. During the same time period, the estimated population of India grew from 125.91 crores to 127.39 crores. Hence the rate of accidental deaths has remained more or less constant i.e. 32.8 accidental deaths for 1 Lakh population.

The year 2014 recorded the highest number of accidental deaths during the ten-year period ( 2007-2016) with 4,51,757 deaths. The rate was also the highest with 36.3 per 1 lakh population. This was the highest after a period of gradual increase starting 2007 when 3,40,794 accidental deaths were recorded. The year 2014 also saw the highest increase in a year i.e. 51,240 more accidental deaths over the previous year, increasing the rate of such deaths by 3.7 points.

Accidental Deaths in India_Accidental Deaths in India

Accidental deaths due to ‘forces of nature’ have decreased

The year 2015 saw the sharpest decline in the number of accidental deaths due to natural causes with 9,691 fewer deaths than previous year. These deaths are a result of natural calamities.

In 2014, the total number of deaths due to such causes was 20,201 which reduced to 10,510 deaths in 2015. The fall in the number of deaths continued in 2016 with 8,684 deaths being recoded as accidents due to natural causes.

Over the 10-year period (2007-2016), the highest number of accidental deaths due to natural causes was recorded in 2010. This was also the only year where the number was higher than the previous year. The trend has been a declining one over the 10 years with 2010 being the only exception.

Accidental Deaths in India_Accidental Deaths in India due to natural causes

Lightning is the major natural cause for accidental deaths

Out of the 8,684 accidental deaths due to natural causes in 2016, the highest number of the deaths were due to ‘Lightning’ which is a total of 3,315 deaths. Floods were the cause for the second highest number of deaths with 1,338. Meanwhile, 687 deaths were due to ‘Exposure to Cold”. Further 2,113 deaths i.e. 24.3% of the total have been listed as caused by ‘other causes’ without any specific categorization.

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There is no major change in terms of the number of accidental deaths due to the major natural causes.  The number of deaths due to lightning increased from 2,263 in 2012 to 3,315 in 2016. Similar trend is  observed with accidental deaths due to floods , where-in they increased from 420 in 2012 to 1338 in 2016.

The major dip in the number of reported accidental deaths due to natural causes in 2015, can be attributed to the dip in the numbers reported under ‘other natural causes’. Unlike in the case of suicides, discussed in an earlier story, there have been no new specific categories that have been added, which could have resulted in the numbers from ‘others’ moving to more specific category. Hence the fall in the numbers remains a mystery, at least under the ‘other causes’.

Accidental Deaths in India_Accidental Deaths in India major natural causes

Traffic Accidents are the major cause of Accidental Deaths due to Unnatural Causes

In the ADSI reports for 2014 & 2015, the accidental deaths were reported under three Categories – ‘Natural Causes’, ‘Unnatural Causes’ and ‘Other Causes’. However, in ADSI-2016 report, ‘Unnatural Causes’ are clubbed under ‘Other Causes’, as was the case in the reports prior to 2014.

Accidental Deaths that are not due to natural causes form a major portion of the accidental deaths. This number increased from 4,02,947 in 2015 to 4,09,537 deaths in 2016.  The year 2014 saw the highest number of accidental deaths in this category when 4,31,556 deaths were recorded. Except for 2015, the number of deaths in this category saw an increasing trend during the 10-year period (2007-2016).

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Traffic Accidents accounted for 43.4% of the total accidental deaths due to causes not relating to nature. A total of 1,77,904 deaths were due to traffic accidents in 2016. Further 41,628 i.e. 10.2% of the accidental deaths were sudden deaths. There have been 29,721 instances of deaths due to drowning while 23,094 people died due to poisoning.

1,984 deaths in 2016 were due to Collapse of structure and 1,399 deaths were due to suffocation. Around 5% of the accidental deaths were due to unknown causes. Nearly 15% of the accidental deaths i.e. 61,170 deaths have reasons which do not fall under the 21 categories that are mentioned in the report.

Road Accidents have increased by 1.5 times over the Ten-year period

In 2007, number of traffic accidents was reported as 1,31,652. Except for 2013, the number of traffic accidents increased every year.  The number of traffic accidents recorded in 2016 is the highest during the 10-year period ( 2007-2016). The highest increase in a single year was in 2008 when 1,44,587 accidents were reported compared to 1,31,552 in 2007  i.e. a 10% increase.

Accidental Deaths in India_traffic accidents

Road accidents form a major share of the traffic accidents. The other two categories as per ADSI report being ‘Railway Accidents’ and ‘Railway Crossing Accidents’.  

In 2007, there were 1,05,725 deaths due to road accidents. Over the ensuing 10 years, the number of deaths due to road accidents increased every year (except 2013). A total of  1,51,801 deaths were reported due to Road accidents in 2016.

The trends for Railway accidents have been inconsistent but the numbers do not have major variance. 27,765 deaths due to Railway accidents were recorded in 2013, the highest in these ten years. The year 2016 saw the least number of deaths due to Railway accidents as well as the highest fall in a year i.e. 3,096.

Meanwhile, accidents at railway crossings have seen an increase with the trend being inconsistent over 10 years. In 2013, this number was least (1,318 deaths) during the 10-year period and has increased in the subsequent years.

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Lower numbers reported under ‘Other Causes’ the major reason behind the fall in overall numbers

As noted earlier in the article, the number of deaths reported under ‘Other Natural Causes’ in 2014 was 14,024 which dropped to 3,114 in 2015 and to 2,113 in 2016.

Similarly, 1,08,778 deaths were reported to be caused due to other causes not included in the categories of ‘Unnatural Causes’ and ‘Other Causes’. The non-categorised accidental deaths were reported separately in 2014 under these two major heads. But since 2015, they are reported under one head of ‘Other Causes’. The number of accidental deaths which do not fall under any of the categories and grouped under ‘Other causes’ were 64,227 and 61,170 in 2015 and 2016 respectively. No explanation for the fall in the ‘Other’ numbers is found in the ADSI report.

Apart from this, the increase in the number of deaths due to road accidents, railway crossing accidents, floods etc. is a matter of concern.

Collecting & publishing the data related to accidents is one piece of the puzzle. The critical aspect is to use this information and act to mitigate the deaths due to such avoidable accidents.