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Open Access Research article

Adolescents' health and health behaviour as predictors of injury death. A prospective cohort follow-up of 652,530 person-years

Ville M Mattila12*, Jari Parkkari3, Leena Koivusilta4, Tapio Nummi1, Pekka Kannus5 and Arja Rimpelä1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Public Health, University of Tampere, 33014 Tampere, Finland

2 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University Hospital of Tampere, 33014 Tampere, Finland

3 Tampere Research Centre of Sports Medicine, UKK Institute, 33501 Tampere, Finland

4 University of Tampere, University of Turku, Finland, IASM – Institutions and Social Mechanisms Faculty of Social Sciences, 20014 University of Turku, Finland

5 Injury & Osteoporosis Research Centre, UKK Institute, 33014 Tampere, Finland

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:90  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-90

Published: 17 March 2008



Injuries represent an important cause of mortality among young adults. Longitudinal studies on risk factors are scarce. We studied associations between adolescents' perceived health and health behaviour and injury death.


A prospective cohort of 57,407 Finns aged 14 to 18 years was followed for an average of 11.4 years. The end-point of study was injury death or termination of follow-up in 2001. The relationships of eight health and health behaviour characteristics with injury death were studied with adjusted Cox's proportional hazard model.


We identified 298 (0.5%) injury deaths, 232 (0.9%) in men and 66 (0.2%) in women. The mean age at death was 23.8 years. In the models adjusted for age, sex and socioeconomic background, the strongest risk factors for injury death were recurring drunkenness (HR 2.1; 95% CI: 1.4–3.1) and daily smoking (HR 1.7; 95% CI: 1.3–2.2). Poor health did not predict injury death. Unintentional and intentional injury deaths had similar health and health behavioural risk factors.


Health compromising behaviour adopted at adolescence has a clear impact on the risk of injury death in adulthood independent from socioeconomic background. On the other hand, poor health as such is not a significant predictor of injury death. Promotion of healthy lifestyle among adolescents as part of public health programmes would seem an appropriate way to contribute to adolescent injury prevention.