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VCU researchers warn of increasing mortality rates among children and teens

Mallory Noe-Payne
Radio IQ

An editorial from the Journal of the American Medical Association has released new research on the mortality rates of children and teens.

The research finds that mortality rates in young people ages 10 to 19 rose by 20% over the past three years.

Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) notes that for decades, death rates in young people have progressively fallen, thanks to modern medicine. However, injury related deaths are now overshadowing the progress being made.

The alarming increase in mortality rates are due to deaths from homicide, accidental drug overdoses, car crashes, and suicide. These injury-related deaths began before the COVID-19 pandemic.

While deaths from COVID-19 contributed to the increase in child mortality rates, injury-related deaths alone were almost 12 times higher than COVID-19-related deaths in 2020.

Likely contributors to the increase in child and teen mortality rates include increased access to firearms and the worsening mental health crisis.

Elizabeth Wolf, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at VCU school of medicine, says there is a major shortage of access to mental health treatment and professionals for children and teens, especially in rural areas.

According to the researchers, without more research, action, and policy to reverse these trends, the risk of children not reaching adulthood may continue to increase.