Young Americans Are Dying at Alarming Rates, Reversing Years of Progress

Stew Peters & Steve Kirsch – Surge in young adults deaths –

For decades, advances in healthcare and safety steadily drove down death rates among American children. In an alarming reversal, rates have now risen to the highest level in nearly 15 years, particularly driven by homicides, drug overdoses, car accidents and suicides.

The uptick among younger Americans accelerated in 2020. Though Covid-19 itself wasn’t a major cause of death for young people, researchers say social disruption caused by the pandemic exacerbated public-health problems, including worsening anxiety and depression. Greater access to firearms, dangerous driving and more lethal narcotics also helped push up death rates.

Between 2019 and 2020, the overall mortality rate for ages 1 to 19 rose by 10.7%, and increased by an additional 8.3% the following year, according to an analysis of federal death statistics led by Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, published in JAMA in March.

That’s the highest increase for two consecutive years in the half-century that the government has publicly tracked such figures, according to Woolf’s analysis.

Other developed countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and Norway also saw a rise in some death counts among young people during that time, though the upticks were often concentrated in narrow age groups or one gender, according to global death counts provided by Christopher J.L. Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

The U.S. is the only place among peer nations where firearms are the No. 1 cause of death in young people. Suicides among Americans age 10 to 19 began increasing in 2007, while homicide rates for that age group started climbing in 2013, according to the research in JAMA by Woolf and co-authors Elizabeth Wolf of Virginia Commonwealth and Frederick Rivara of the University of Washington. The increases in suicides and homicides among young people went largely unnoticed at first because overall child and adolescent mortality rates still declined most years.

Penicillin and other antibiotics drove down deaths from bacterial infections in the years following World War II, and vaccines controlled lethal viruses such as polio and influenza. Safer automobiles, seat belts, and car seats made driving less deadly.

Bicycle helmets, smoke detectors and swimming lessons reduced fatal accidents and drownings. Medical advancements that save premature babies and treat leukemia and other cancers helped more children survive once-lethal diagnoses.

“All of those gains are now being offset by essentially four causes of death,” Woolf said. When the pandemic started, deaths of young people due to suicide and homicide climbed higher. Deaths caused by drug overdoses and transportation fatalities—mainly motor-vehicle accidents—rose significantly, too.

Covid, which surged to America’s No. 3 cause of death during the pandemic, accounted for just one-tenth of the rise in mortality among young people in 2020, and one-fifth of it in 2021, according to the research led by Woolf, which uses data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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