Youth Mortality Rising in US

Life expectancy rates continue to increase around the world. In the US, however, they have been steady since 2010, with a decrease since 2019. 

COVID has obviously played a major role, with significant increases to morality among the elderly since 2019. But that’s not all there is to the story.

Why is Child Mortality Increasing in the US?

The all-cause mortality rate for Americans aged 1 to 19 increased 10.7% between 2019 and 2020. A further 8.3% increase was recorded from 2020 to 2021, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

What is baffling is that little of the increase is accounted for by COVID. Children do of course suffer health impacts from COVID infection, but just 20% of the increase to 2021 was attributed to COVID.

According to the epidemiologists, the increase was accounted for by “injuries,” an enigmatic answer in itself. The category includes homicides, suicides, drug overdoses and accidents involving cars, firearms or other traumatic incidents.

But why would these incidents have spiked since 2019? Part of the answer may lie in the fact that more has been going wrong for young people in each of these sub-categories across the board

Some 48% of the total youth mortality related to an increase in firearms deaths. But researchers also saw transport-related deaths of children aged 10 to 19 increase 15% in 2020, despite the movement restrictions. Among young children, there was a 46% increase in deaths due to fires and burns. 

Suicide among American youth has now increased 70% since 2007. That’s alongside a 32% increase in homicides. The use of antidepressants and ADHD meds is sharply up since 2019.

“Bullets, drugs, and automobiles are now causing a youth death toll sufficient to elevate all-cause mortality rates,” said the journal authors, “The largest such increase in recent memory.”

Such a broad spectrum of declining health indicators suggests a social pathology that is difficult to isolate. 

The US has always been notorious for inequality, with its income inequality levels now scarcely behind Brazil’s. However, although we’ve known since The Spirit Level that inequality is linked to all sorts of social problems including violent crime and mental illness, it is hard to see how the step-wise increases in US inequality over the past 15 years could account for sharp increases in homicides, suicides and fatal accidents just in the past few years.

While it is true that mapping statistical trends has been made more difficult since the pandemic, it is also possible that these youth mortality increases are indicative of some sort of tipping point in terms of social and community decay in the Land of the Free.

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