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Data: Causes of death of U.S. citizens abroad

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Every time something crazy happens to U.S. tourists abroad it makes the news back at home. This can sometimes present a distorted view of what the real risks are so we've compiled data from the U.S. State Department on deaths of U.S. citizens abroad. Hopefully this will help keep people safer and help them enjoy their trip more because they know the risks.

U.S. citizen deaths abroad: January 2010 to June 2022

Chart by Away Clinic | free to use with attribution

There are a few things worth noting:

  1. By far the biggest risk is accidents. Most of the accidents are vehicle accidents.

  2. Most of the "terrorism/conflict" deaths are U.S. military. The vast majority of the deaths occurred in Afghanistan.

  3. Many of the causes of death are unknown. There were two things we couldn't find in the database that surprised us: animal deaths and natural causes. We thought many people would have died of natural causes such as heart attacks and other medical emergencies but none were reported in the dataset. It's possible these are classified as "unknown" or perhaps they are simply left out because their death had nothing to do with them being abroad.

Breaking down the accidents

Of the 4,149 accidental deaths, 1,248 of them (30%) were classified as "other accidents." The other 70% were vehicle accidents of some sort.

The vehicle accidents were further subdivided into categories as follows:

U.S. citizen deaths by vehicle accident abroad: January 2010 to June 2022

Chart by Away Clinic | free to use with attribution


The vehicles with the highest rates of death may not be the most dangerous because there is no information on how much time people are spending on each mode of transportation. It does appear, however, that public transportation (bus and train) appear to be quite a bit safer than smaller vehicles. The aircraft deaths were mainly smaller incidents in small aircraft as well. Public transportation is just safer from an accident standpoint.

About the data

All data used here was collected and made available to the public by the U.S. State Department.

About the author

Aaron Charlton, PhD is a science and medical blogger and entrepreneur. He writes for Away Clinic and other medical clients. He also maintains a website called that is aimed at improving transparency and quality of scientific research within the field of marketing. He is sometimes quoted by the media on matters of scientific integrity.


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