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Epidemiology of burn injuries globally

Michael D Peck, MD, ScD, FACS
Section Editor
Marc G Jeschke, MD, PhD
Deputy Editor
Kathryn A Collins, MD, PhD, FACS


Burn injuries are among the most devastating of all injuries and a major global public health crisis [1,2]. Burns are the fourth most common type of trauma worldwide, following traffic accidents, falls, and interpersonal violence [3,4]. Approximately 90 percent of burns occur in low- to middle-income countries, regions that generally lack the necessary infrastructure to reduce the incidence and severity of burns [5,6]. In this topic, we use the classification of countries by income adapted from the World Bank for the World Development Report [7].

This topic reviews the epidemiology and distribution of burns worldwide. The global costs of burns and prevention strategies to reduce the risk of burn injuries are discussed elsewhere. (See "Global costs of fires and burns" and "Prevention of fire and burn injuries".)


Unintentional and intentional burn injuries vary across age groups, gender, income, and global region. In high-income countries, the trend over the last several years has been a reduction in burn incidence, burn severity, length of hospital stay, and mortality rate [8-12].

Site and setting — Adults are equally likely to sustain a burn in the home, outdoors, or at work. Burns to adult males occur mostly in outdoor or work locations, while burns to adult females occur mostly at home [13,14]. In the domestic setting, cooking is the most commonly associated activity [15,16]. In Nepal, where kerosene and biomass are used as the main fuels, lighting, heating, and cooking were the main activities associated with burn injury in women [17]. Older adults are most likely to sustain a burn in the bathroom, followed by the kitchen [18]. Pediatric burns occur more commonly in the home (84 percent) when children are unsupervised (80 percent) [1,19].

Armed conflict increases the incidence of burns, as shown by a survey of burns in Baghdad that demonstrated a rise in incidence from 30 per 100,000 in 2003 to 117 per 100,000 after invasion [20].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 10, 2017.
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