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Travel Was as Dangerous 500 Years Ago as Today: Study

Changing modes of transport have had little effect on unintentional injuries

THURSDAY, Oct. 16, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Horses may have long given way to cars as people movers, but travel was as hazardous 500 years ago as it is today, U.K. researchers suggest.

The surprising findings, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, analyzed 413 adult deaths from unintentional injuries that occurred in the county of Sussex, England, between 1485 and 1688.

Drowning was the leading cause of death (38 percent), followed by being hit/struck/crushed by an object (25 percent), and falls from a cart/wagon or a horse (14 percent). Other falls accounted for 9 percent of the deaths, while 6 percent died from gunshot or arrow wounds, and 1 percent died from burns/scalds. Six of the victims died while drunk.

Further analysis revealed that land travel accounted for 30 percent of injuries. Riding on horses or wagons/carts was only slightly more dangerous than foot travel, as pedestrians fell from bridges and ferries and into ditches. Three people were knocked down by speeding horses, said the researchers.

Accidental injury is a major public health issue worldwide, and that cause of serious injury and death is expected to increase in the coming decades as poor nations become more developed, said the researchers.

"One continuity is the hazardous nature of travel," the study authors wrote. "Movement across the landscape has always exposed humans to injury risk, and changing forms of transport do not seem to have altered that basic fact."

More information

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers advice about staying healthy while traveling.

SOURCE: BMJ specialist journals, news release, Oct. 16, 2008
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