Young people in the U.S. are less likely to make their 25th birthday than in any other high-income country, according to a new report.
The study was conducted using huge databases featuring records of 377,000 young people in the U.S. prior to the pandemic. The researchers found that people aged between 15 to 24 in the U.S. are twice as likely to die than people in the same age range in countries such as Germany and France and mortality rates for infants are up to three times higher than in other high-income nations. The report suggests tha high levels of poverty, violence and relative lack of social safety nets are responsible.
“This is a bleak report, and it’s tough to read,” said Richard Rogers, professor of sociology at The University of Colorado Boulder and one of the authors of the report. “But it is also a call to action.”
The report found that four in ten of deaths among teenagers aged 15-19 are due to suicide or homicide, with a high number of firearm related deaths and a further third are due to unintentional injuries including those which are traffic related, poisoning or drownings. This contrasts sharply with the most common cause of death in adults, which is disease.
Some states fare worse than others, with southern states including Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana and Tennessee having the highest death rate for young Americans. The report also found that Black and Hispanic children are at higher risk of dying young, as are those living in poverty or with parents who do not have a college degree. Young people raised in households with two, married parents – often associated with higher and dual incomes, are least likely to die young.
Despite the dire findings of the report, the authors are aiming it to be used as a call to action and are urging lawmakers to take “immediate and aggressive action,” to reduce child poverty by tackling issues with childcare, housing, nutrition and education for parents. They also note high levels of mental health issues and liberal gun laws leading to the wide availability of firearms
“In other developed countries, especially European countries, there is less income inequality and there are more safety nets, including social and educational support for parents and better healthcare for families,” Rogers said.
The study was conducted prior to the pandemic and it is too early to but the authors are concerned that there may be several impacts on youth mortality, including mental health issues, substance abuse among youths and parents struggling to find adequate childcare.
“More than 140,000 people have lost a parent in this pandemic,” said Rogers. “That will have an impact.”