J Safety Res. 2023 Sep;86:245-252. doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2023.07.003. Epub 2023 Jul 31.
BACKGROUND: Differences in social and environmental factors can contribute to disparities in fatal injury rates. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between social and environmental factors and unintentional fatal injury across counties in the United States and how this relationship varies by geography.
METHODS: County-level vital statistics on age-adjusted unintentional fatal injury rates for 2015-2019 were linked with county-level data from the 2018 Social Vulnerability Index (SVI), a dataset identifying socially vulnerable communities. We conducted linear regression to examine the association between SVI and unintentional fatal injury, overall and by Census region/division. We mapped county-level data for SVI and unintentional fatal injury rates in bivariate choropleth maps using quartiles.
RESULTS: SVI was positively associated with unintentional fatal injury (β = 18.29, p < 0.001) across U.S. counties. The geographic distribution of SVI and unintentional fatal injury rates varied spatially and substantially for U.S. counties, with counties in the South and West regions having the greatest levels of SVI and rates of unintentional fatal injury.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings demonstrate that the social vulnerability of counties is associated with unintentional fatal injury rates. Modification of the SVI for injury research could include additional social determinants and exclude variables not applicable to injuries. A modified SVI could inform unintentional injury prevention strategies by prioritizing efforts in areas with high levels of social vulnerability.
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: This study is the first step in combining the SVI and injury mortality data to provide researchers with an index to investigate upstream factors related to injury.