Young Americans dying sooner from violence, poverty, racial injustices, researchers say
WASHINGTON - An alarming new report shows Americans between 15 to 24 years old are twice as likely to die compared to their peers in France, Germany, Japan and other wealthy nations.
The Population Reference Bureau released its report earlier this week, also stating that the infant mortality rate is up to three times higher in the U.S. compared to other countries.
The study’s authors blame the troubling trend on "violence, poverty and racial disparities." The report also found that injuries, suicides and homicides are the leading causes of death among children and young adults while premature birth and congenital abnormalities are the top causes of infant mortality.
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Researchers stated in 2019 alone, nearly 60,000 people under age 25 died in the U.S., including almost 21,000 infants. They point out that the probability of dying under the age of 25 is much lower in other countries, with Japan being the lowest.
"The death of a child or young adult is a tremendous tragedy for parents, for families and for our society," University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor Robert Hummer, who took part in the research, said in a news release. "As the report shows, a significant number of young lives could have been saved through policies and interventions addressing safety and social and economic inequities, making these losses even more tragic."
The study’s authors said they conducted their research before the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s too early to see if the pandemic has affected the mortality patterns given that many young Americans coped with mental health and substance abuse problems during the global health crisis.
Researchers said they put out the report to call on the country’s leaders to do more to prevent the trend from growing. Recommendations include providing more housing and income support, expanding tax credits and enacting stricter gun control laws. They also call for improving medical treatment and health care access for people of color.
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"Immediate and aggressive action is needed at both the federal and state levels to stem death rates among those under the age of 25 in the United States," University of Colorado Boulder professor Richard Rogers, the study’s co-author, said in a news release. "More purposefully supporting infants, children, young adults and young families is an essential way to ensure a brighter future for all Americans."
Other key findings include from the report include:
- While mortality rates for young people have been steadily declining in other wealthy nations, including Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom they’ve remained stagnant or risen in the United States among every age group under 25.
- Six of the 10 states with the highest age-adjusted death rates for ages 1 to 24 are in the South: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.
- Despite having one of the world’s highest income levels, the United States has one of the highest infant mortality rates—about three times as high as Finland, Japan, and Slovenia, largely because it has higher percentages of preterm births.
- Economic and racial disparities are drivers of higher infant mortality rates among Black mothers compared with white mothers, with the death rate for Black infants twice that of infants born to non-Hispanic white.
- Black and Mexican American children and young adults face higher death rates than their white.
- Living in a low-income household or with parents who have low education levels increases the risk of death before age.
- Suicides and homicides account for 40% of deaths among young people ages 15 to 19. Suicide is the second leading cause of death between the ages of 10 and 24.
- The United States has disproportionately high numbers of firearm-related deaths compared with most of its peer countries. Gun violence killed 7,580 U.S children and young adults under age 25 in 2019; 39% of these deaths were suicides, 61% homicides. Almost a third of Americans who died from homicide by firearm in 2019 were under age.
- Boys are more likely to die at a young age than girls, largely due to greater risk-taking behavior among adolescent and young adult males.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.