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Bunk versus conventional beds: a comparative assessment of fall injury risk
  1. M Belechri1,
  2. E Petridou1,2,
  3. D Trichopoulos1,2
  1. 1Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Athens University Medical School, Athens, Greece
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr E Petridou, Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Athens University Medical School, 75 Mikras Asias, Goudi, Athens 115–27, Greece;


Objective: To depict the magnitude and spectrum of childhood injuries attributable to falls from bunk beds in comparison with conventional beds and to outline sociodemographic risk factors and injury characteristics.

Study design: Case-control investigation.

Setting: Accident and emergency departments of four hospitals in Greece, namely a teaching children's hospital and a trauma hospital in Greater Athens and the two district hospitals in the Magnesia county and the Corfu island.

Patients: During the three year period 1996–98, 1881 children (0–14 years) presenting with bed fall injuries were recorded by the Emergency Department Injury Surveillance System (EDISS). Out of these, 197 children with falls from bunk beds served as cases and 1684 children with falls from conventional beds served as controls.

Results: From the analysis and a nationwide extrapolation, it was calculated that each year about 5000 children in Greece (total population 10 million) seek medical attendance at an emergency department for a bed injury, corresponding to an estimated incidence of about 3 per 1000 children years. Out of bed fall injuries, 10.5% are from bunk beds, 10.4% from cribs, 3.1% from cots, and 76.0% from other conventional beds. Falls from the bed ladder accounted for 8% of all bunk bed injuries. Boys are at higher risk for falls from beds but there is no evidence that the proportion is different depending on the type of bed used. Relatively few falls from bunk beds are recorded outside the crowded apartments of Greater Athens or among migrant children. The increased relative risk of injuries from bunk bed falls during the sleeping hours indicates the higher risk of injury after a fall from a bunk rather than a conventional bed. Injuries from bunk bed falls are generally more serious than those from conventional bed falls (overrepresentation of brain injuries, fractures, multiple injuries, and injuries requiring hospitalisation). Overall, it can be estimated that almost half of the sleep related bunk bed injuries are easily preventable.

Conclusions: Falls from bunk beds represent a non-negligible childhood injury risk. A sizeable fraction can be avoided with simple design modifications of the product, such as use of side rails in the upper bed or removal of the bed ladder when not in use.

  • bunk beds
  • falls
  • sleep
  • injuries

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  • Funding: none.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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