(The Hill) — Child mortality is rising at a rate not seen in at least half a century, impeding long-term progress in bringing America’s young people into adulthood.
Child and adolescent mortality rose by nearly 20% between 2019 and 2021, according to the WHO. analysis It was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on March 13.
“These increases are the largest in decades and follow a period of great progress in reducing child mortality,” the authors wrote. They blamed “artificial pathogens”, especially guns and drugs.
Childhood mortality is rising primarily due to trauma rather than diseases such as cancer or COVID-19. Boys are dying almost twice as fast as girls. Black and Hispanic boys die from homicide at much higher rates than non-Hispanic whites.
However, researchers have found that child mortality rates for both genders and multiple races are rising across several causal categories, from car accidents to drug overdoses.
Child mortality has been trending downward for decades, a collective result of several successful public health campaigns. Fewer children are dying from vaccine-preventable diseases. Smoke detectors, bicycle helmets and seat belts all contribute to lower youth mortality rates.
In recent years, however, several new and alarming trends have conspired to change the course of pediatric health. One of the most important factors is firearms. Combining homicides and suicides, guns accounted for nearly half of her total increase in child mortality in 2020, the report found.
Fatal vehicle crashes have rebounded after years of decline, increasing the number of youth deaths. Alcohol and drugs are another factor, with twice as many child deaths in 2021 as in 2019. but most were due to accidental overdose. In a world of child mortality, a mental health crisis looms.
Lead author of the report, Stephen Wolfe of Virginia Commonwealth University, said: “It comes from bullets and drugs and cars.”
Woolf serves as Honorary Director and Senior Advisor to the VCU Center for Social and Health. He co-authored the journal article with Elizabeth Woolf, assistant professor of pediatrics at VCU and Frederick Rivera, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington. Their report draws on death certificate data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Childhood mortality usually increased for 1 to 2 years before returning to a declining trend.
“But an increase of this magnitude hasn’t happened in half a century,” Wolfe said, adding, “probably hasn’t happened since the flu pandemic that ended in 1919.
Rising child mortality puts a sad and ironic twist on the broader trend of rising mortality in the US population. Caused by the COVID-19 pandemic biggest jump In a century of annual deaths, according to Wolfe, it alone shortened Americans’ life expectancy by two years.
However, the increase in child deaths is not related to COVID-19. Pandemic-related deaths account for only a small fraction of the increase in child mortality in 2020 and 2021.
Wolf and other health experts cautioned against dismissing the new data as a COVID-19 phenomenon. Analyzes show that child suicide rates have risen since his 2007, and child homicide rates have risen since his 2013. Overdose deaths began to rise in his 2019, one year before the pandemic.
Murder, suicide, and accidental overdoses are “all preventable. That’s what really stood out for me here,” said Chris Reese, an assistant professor of emergency medicine in Emory University’s pediatrics department. “There are ways we know to prevent these things.”
Over the years, disease has killed more children than any other cause. In the 1960s, road traffic accidents overtook illness as the leading cause of death among children. 2020, firearms outnumber car crashes as the leading killer of American children.
Reese has done extensive research into gun violence, which is responsible for both murders and suicides.His study shows deaths from firearms 45 percent up Between 2004 and 2021.
Rees found firearm sales skyrocketed during the pandemic, with more than 7 million Americans buying their first gun and millions of spouses and children exposed to firearms at home. Did.
“We own more firearms than the population of this country and far more firearms per capita than any other country in the world with data on firearm ownership,” he said. Robert Allan HammerHoward W. Odham Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina.
Child homicides increased by two-fifths between 2019 and 2021, according to CDC data. Most of the deaths were due to guns.
More boys die from gun violence than girls, and black boys die at a higher rate than other boys. According to Wolfe’s analysis, black youth made up two-thirds of his murder victims between the ages of 10 and 19. The murder rate of black boys was 61 times higher than her murder rate of white women.
Another factor driving child mortality is the ongoing mental health crisis in the country. Child suicide rates nearly doubled from 2.1 to 3.8 per 100,000 children between 2007 and 2021, according to CDC data.
Letitia Ryan, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University and Director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, said:
“It’s very common in many hospital emergency departments to keep children waiting for days after a suicide attempt or suicidal ideation,” she said. Years go on.”
Ryan said the new report is “very consistent with what we’ve seen over the past few years,” with hospitalizations for childhood trauma such as gun violence, suicide attempts and car accidents rising.
“I think a lot of worrying risk factors and trends are converging,” she said. “That should be a wake-up call for all of us.”
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