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20 Jan, 2022 14:36

US youth mortality rate twice as high as other wealthy nations – report

A new report on the disproportionate death rate found that accidents, suicides, and homicides kill twice as many young people in the US as in other wealthy nations
US youth mortality rate twice as high as other wealthy nations – report

While youth and infant mortality rates have declined across the developed world, they’ve remained stagnant or even increased in the US, according to a new report by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), a Washington-based nonprofit. Among older youths, violent death is alarmingly more common in the US than in other developed nations.

A baby born in the US in 2019 was nearly three times as likely to die as a baby born in Japan, Finland, or Slovenia, the report states. The researchers attribute this disparity to the high rate of preterm births in the US, as well as racial and economic inequalities, which affect access to healthcare.

Growing up, other hazards come into play. Unintentional injuries (a category that includes drug overdoses), suicides, and homicides account for about half of all deaths among people aged 10 to 14, and about three quarters of all deaths among those aged 15 to 24. 

Several factors significantly increased the likelihood of early death. Males were 134% more likely to die young than females and more than twice as likely to die from homicide or suicide than females, with researchers blaming their tendency toward risk-taking behaviors. Youths living in the American south were also more likely to die, as were black children, children from families with lower education levels, and ones from households without a mother and a father.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 10- to 24-year-olds, and while the PRB’s report used data collected before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, suicide figures likely increased during the last two years of lockdowns and school closures. Statistics for this period have yet to be published by the National Institute of Mental Health, but depression and substance abuse did increase dramatically during 2020.

Of the nearly 60,000 young people who died in the US in 2019, 7,580 were killed with firearms, with 39% of these deaths suicides and 61% homicides. Almost a third of Americans who died from homicide by firearm in 2019 were under the age of 25. 

The PRB recommends a host of policy solutions to lower America’s youth death rate, from hiking welfare payments to funding child care, preschool, housing, nutrition, and health care. Some of these policy solutions would be a difficult sell in Washington, however. For example, the researchers suggest banning so-called “assault weapons,” and setting up a licensing system and a government database of gun-owners. This could prove difficult in a country where firearms ownership is enshrined in the Constitution.