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The New Crisis of Increasing All-Cause Mortality in US Children and Adolescents

23 Mar 2023 5:45 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

Although life expectancy in industrialized countries has lengthened over the past century, increases in US life expectancy ceased after 2010, a trend attributed to rising mortality rates among individuals aged 25 to 64 years.1 Although midlife mortality rates increased over the past decade, mortality rates among children and older adults continued to decrease. The COVID-19 pandemic altered this trend and resulted in a sharp increase in mortality among older adults, an unsurprising outcome. However, pediatric mortality rates also increased, and COVID-19 contributed little to this surge. This increase in all-cause pediatric mortality has ominous implications. A nation that begins losing its most cherished population—its children—faces a crisis like no other. [JAMA Network] 

A close examination of mortality data for 1999-2020 and provisional data for 2021 spells out the problem.2,3 Between 2019 and 2020, the all-cause mortality rate for ages 1 to 19 years increased by 10.7%, and it increased by an additional 8.3% between 2020 and 2021 (Figure, A).2,3 These increases, the largest in decades, followed a period of great progress in reducing pediatric mortality rates. Although most of the upsurge in pediatric mortality was attributable to deaths among older children (ages 10-19), all-cause mortality in younger children (ages 1-9) also increased in 2021 (by 8.4%).3 Infants (<1 year) were the only age group that experienced no significant increase in mortality. 

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