We’re a nation of klutzes

Here’s my train of thought: I was reading the Codger’s blog the other day. He referred to a sofa as a “davenport,” and I remembered an alarming statistic I read a few years ago:

Over 130,000 Americans a year are injured by sofas, couches or davenports.

It’s in the 2006 edition of the Statistical Abstract of the United States — and, yes, it specifically mentions davenports.

I’d looked up “Injuries Associated with Selected Consumer Products” after reading Bill Bryson’s book, I’m a Stranger Here Myself.

In the book, Bryson mentions flipping through the Statistical Abstract and being surprised to discover that, at the time, something like 400,000 Americans were being injured every year by beds, mattresses or pillows.

It seemed impossible that so many people couldn’t lie down without hurting themselves, so I looked up the statistics myself. That’s when I discovered that over 130,000 people a year also fail at sitting or lying on a sofa, couch or davenport.

We’re not talking minor injuries here. These are injuries serious enough to send the victim to the emergency room.

Every once in a while, something comes up like the Codger’s reference to davenports that reminds me of the Statistical Abstract and makes me wonder whether we’ve gotten any less klutzy.

We haven’t.

The 2010 edition of the Statistical Abstract came out a few weeks ago.

First of all, I was disappointed to discover that the U.S. government no longer tracks the number of people hurt by sofas, couches, or davenports (no doubt bowing to pressure from the powerful sofa, coach and davenport lobby).

Second, it turns out we’re doing an even worse job of lying down successfully than we did when Bryson’s book came out 11 years ago.

Back then, the number of bed- or bedding-related injuries was around 400,000 a year. Today, it’s 532,000.

That’s more than are hurt by household packaging and containers (205,000),  footware (155,000), and hammers (35,000) combined. (How do you hurt yourself with a household container, anyway?)

But wait. It gets worse. According to the Abstract:

  • 319,000 people a year are hurt by chairs
  • 305,000 injure themselves while trying to walk through doors
  • 60,000 are seriously wounded by TVs

I know. We’re a nation of 300 million. Sixty thousand people out of 300 million is a tiny fraction. It’s statistically insignificant, a rounding error.

Still, 60,000 people a year — people who probably are allowed to drive, people who vote — managed to get hurt by objects that sit there and don’t actually do anything.

It’s scary. Every time you leave the house, there’s a fair chance you’ll cross paths with someone who’s so clumsy he or she can’t even watch TV without getting hurt. It’s enough to make me want to stay in and lock the doors — if I didn’t think I might hurt myself in the process.

5 thoughts on “We’re a nation of klutzes

  1. Hello again Mr. Pack. I just wanted to say thank you for referencing my little “lifestyle column”. Hopefully your Blog will save some lives, or at the very least, prevent some injuries. I especially distrust those fultons that tilt down to form a mattress. Those fultons seem like death-traps, just like the original steamboats.

    All the best,
    The Codger

  2. “Over 130,000 Americans a year are injured by sofas, couches or davenports.” As soon as I read this I just cracked up laughing. I’m not American, but I’m sure Australia has similar stats.
    Anyway, I’ve just stumbled on your blog here, and it’s very entertaining. Will be following!
    – Ilona

  3. I just love the Statistical Abstract. This is the first (personal) blog where I’ve ever seen it referenced, so I had to celebrate the occasion with a comment.

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