Death Rates Of American Youths Are On The Rise And There’s A Disturbing Reason For That Trend

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The US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just released a troubling report stating that despite a plateau in mortality from disease, rates of death among American youths aged 10 to 19 have gone up since 2013.

The causes? Suicide, homicide, and accidents (including drug overdoses).

“When I first conceded to do this report 2.5 years ago, I thought that we would be documenting a decline,” report author and CDC statistician Sally Curtin told CNN. “We were surprised that there was such a broad increase across so many causes of death. There wasn't just one that was contributing.”

Curtin and her colleagues had set out to examine changes in death rates among this age group between 1999 to 2016 using data from death certificates filed in all 50 states. When crunching the numbers, the team found that there was indeed a decline in all causes of death from 1999 to 2013. But then the trend reversed alarmingly: between 2013 and 2016, the rate climbed 12 percent.

US Department of Health and Human Services. CDC

Sorting through the data revealed that the three-year upward spike was driven by a higher number of both unintentional and intentionally inflicted injuries. The count for 2016 was 17 percent higher than 2013, and though all ages were affected, children between 15 and 19 were the hardest hit.

“In contrast,” Curtin’s team wrote, “the noninjury death rate declined 23% between 1999 (12.8 [per 100,000 children]) and 2013 (9.8%) and then was relatively stable through 2016 (9.8%). Noninjury deaths include natural causes such as cancer and heart disease.”

Most cases of unintentional injury death stemmed from car accidents, drowning, and poisoning – a category dominated by opioid drug overdoses.

Quite distressingly, suicide rates ended their years-long pattern of decline and began to rise in 2007, much earlier than the other causes of death. From 2007 to 2016, the number of suicides per 100,000 individuals aged 10 to 19 increased by 56 percent.

Examining homicides specifically, the authors found that the annual number fluctuated after 1999, and declined by 35 percent between 2007 and 2014, before increasing by 27 percent, to 4.7 per 100,000, in 2016. Firearms were, unsurprisingly, the leading method.

A study released earlier this year showed that the rates of death among US children and teens have been dropping at lower rates than other developed nations since the 1980s. Since the 1990’s, American children have been more likely to die than children from 19 other wealthy, democratic countries – including the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Germany, and Canada.

The authors hope that their findings will be used to inform public health campaigns aimed at tackling issues of substance abuse, violence, and depression among our youth.

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