Y2012-S1 Deaths among children

Deaths among children from diseases and other non-natural causes have decreased over the last few decades. In the case of accidents, this is principally attributable to improved road safety. There is, however, an exception to this favourable development; the number of suicides committed by young people has remained practically unchanged. Despite these positive trends, child mortality from accidents and violence is at a higher level in Finland than in most other countries in Western Europe. Accidents and other non-natural causes of death also constitute a major public health problem, even by international standards.

This investigation, covering a period of three years, looked into the causes of death among young people of 0 to 17 years of age in Finland. Between 2009 and 2011, a total of 199 children or young people died, either accidentally or due to other non-natural causes. Most of these children and young people (74 fatalities) perished in road traffic accidents. A total of 51 young people committed suicide. Drowning accounted for 17 of the deaths, suffocation for 12, fire for 6, poisoning for 4, other accidents for 8, homicide for 13 and the provision of medical care for 1 fatality. In 13 cases, the manner of death could not be determined.

The investigation report details various courses of events, all leading to a fatality, in which properly targeted safety work would be appropriate. The data show that road accidents form the largest group of accidents which result in a fatality. Risk-taking on mopeds by young people and, when young people are approaching adult age, in cars, stand out in this group. The second largest group among fatalities due to accidents comprised drownings. Fatal accidents involving small children had a variety of causes. This calls for creating a generally safe environment in which children are under supervision and are encouraged to engage in safe play and exercise. Particularly large was the number of young people perishing by suicide; here, no positive development could be perceived. The problems seem to lie in mental health problems, social marginalisation, sexual identity and the poor model for resolving relationship problems which is characteristic of our culture. Fatalities from homicide during the survey period amounted to 13, suggesting that attention needs to be paid to their prevention.

The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that measures be taken to develop the collection and use of information on children's deaths. To reduce the number of road fatalities, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that young people and their families be informed about the dangers associated with riding a moped, about safe behaviour in traffic, observance of traffic regulations and the importance of the proper maintenance and overhaul of mopeds. To prevent drownings, guidance centres and early childhood education programmes should emphasise the dangers of water, communicating to parents the importance of gaining familiarity with water, of teaching children how to swim, and of their supervision. It should be ensured that children learn to swim while still at primary school.

To prevent suicides, appropriate measures should be taken to ensure that the requirements for securing the resources, content, planning and mutual cooperation of mental health services and for ensuring the flow of information within them – all related to the work of antenatal and child health clinics and school health services – are clearly defined and strictly adhered to. Pupils with-in the comprehensive school and the secondary education system should also be provided with opportunities to present their concerns about themselves, about their friend and their community at large to their teachers and representatives of the school health services. This system should include procedures for the identification and processing of problem situations.

To prevent homicides in which children are the victims, measures should be taken to ensure that municipal services for families with children are provided within the context of family centres or otherwise, in such a fashion that comprehensive collaboration with families, involving profession-als from various fields, can be carried out across sectoral boundaries. The aim must be the early recognition of problems, one in which the flow of information is ensured and families are provided with sufficient and comprehensive support.

Y2012-S1 Investigation report (pdf, 6.49 Mt)

Published 28.4.2014