Background Global travel continues to increase, including among US citizens. The global burden of injuries and violence, accounting for approximately 5 million deaths worldwide in 2000, is also growing. Travelers often experience heightened risk for this biosocial disease burden. This study seeks to further describe and improve our understanding of the variable risk of travel-related injury and death.

Methods Information on US civilian citizen deaths from injury while abroad was obtained from the US Department of State Web site. This information was categorized into regional and causal groupings. The groupings were compared to each other and to injury deaths among citizens in their native countries.

Results From 2004 to 2006, there were 2,361 deaths of US citizens overseas due to injury. Of these US citizen injury deaths, 50.4% occurred in the Americas region. Almost 40% (37.8%) of US citizen injury deaths in the low- to middle-income Americas were due to vehicle crashes compared to about half that (18.9%) (proportional mortality ratio [PMR] = 1.72, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.59–1.62) for low- to middle-income Americas citizen injury deaths. Similar differences between US citizen injury death abroad and the in-country distributions were also found for vehicle crashes in Europe (35.9% vs 16.5%, PMR = 2.17, 95% CI 1.78–2.64; p < 0.0005), for drowning deaths in the Americas (13.1% vs 4.6%, PMR = 2.67, 95% CI 2.29–3.11) and many island nations (63.5% vs 3.5%, PMR = 11.38, 95% CI 8.17–15.84), and for homicides in the low- to middle-income European countries (16.9% vs 10.5%, PMR = 1.52, 95% CI .90–2.57).

Conclusions US citizens should be aware of regional variation of injury deaths in foreign countries, especially for motor vehicle crashes, drowning, and violence. Improved knowledge of regional variations of injury death and risk for travelers can further inform travelers and the development of evidence-based prevention programs and policies. The State Department Web site is a new data source that furthers our understanding of this challenging travel-related health issue.