COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Americans are more likely to die before they turn 25 than their peers in other wealthy countries, according to a report co-authored by a University of Colorado Boulder researcher, with people of color at even greater risk to die young.
The report, published in the Population Reference Bulletin last month, found that these death rates stagnated or worsened in the United States between 2013 and 2019, while comparable countries improved to guarantee the aging of their young people. citizens.
These deaths are often violent: the leading causes of death among American children and young adults are unintentional injuries, suicides and homicides. Many of these losses, the authors write, can be avoided through “aggressive” action by government and society to address poverty, discrimination, and access to health care, among other things.
“More than 50,000 young adults would still be alive today,” wrote CU-Boulder sociology professor Richard Rogers and his co-authors, “if the United States had achieved a modest (2%) annual reduction in early mortality in the 20 to 24 age group between 2000 and 2017.”
Rogers told The Denver Gazette that he had previously studied adult mortality, but felt researchers had missed a concerning trend among young Americans.
“If you ask the general public about trends in the United States, a lot of people assume that the United States has one of the best expectations,” he said. “Reasonably low mortality. People assume that the beginning of life is when children are resilient and can fight off any problem, they have higher survival rates. And we’ve found that’s not always the case.
Research is particularly relevant now. Mental health experts say the pandemic has exacerbated the mental health crisis for young people and that the virus itself has disproportionately affected Coloradans of color.
It remains to be seen how much the pandemic will affect America’s already low youth death rates. Rogers and the other researchers looked at data from 2013 to 2019, when the most recent full datasets are available. They found that men were more likely than women to die before they reached 25, “largely due to higher risk behavior among adolescent and young adult males”.
Men were more than twice as likely to die from homicide or suicide as their female counterparts.
Rogers specifically noted access to guns: Researchers found that gun violence killed 7,580 Americans under the age of 25 in 2019, 61% of which were suicides. That year, nearly a third of all gun deaths in the United States were under the age of 25.
“If you’re looking to close the gap between men and women,” Rogers said, limiting young people’s access to guns is a good place to start. The researchers also noted broader societal factors, such as the attitude of “resistance” imposed on some, that can worsen mental or physical health problems. Higher levels of risky behaviors are another issue, they wrote.
While the rates were higher between men and women, they were further exacerbated based on race, the researchers found. Young black and Mexican American children were both more likely to die than their white peers.
“Compared to non-Hispanic white children and young adults aged 1 to 24, the risk of death before age 25 is 60% higher among non-Hispanic black children and young adults, and 32% higher among their peers. Mexican Americans, considering gender. and age,” the report revealed.
Likewise, the United States had the fourth worst infant mortality rate of any peer country, behind Mexico, Turkey and Chile. Like youth mortality in general, people of color suffer even worse rates: Even for black women with at least a bachelor’s degree, infant mortality rates are higher than for white women without that level of achievement.
The researchers wrote that explanations for this disparity include lower income, “more stressful neighborhood contexts,” and “more prevalent psychosocial stressors among Black women, including exposure to a lifetime of discrimination.”
“Stressors, including discrimination and structural barriers, can induce preterm births,” the authors continued, “which contribute to racial/ethnic disparities in infant mortality.”
The solution, Rogers said, “is more socio-economic support for families.” The United States does not have universal health care, unlike most peer countries, and that likely plays a role, he said. High homicide and suicide rates are also largely unique to America.
In the report, the authors advance five goals they believe the United States should pursue to reduce youth mortality. The objectives are to adopt policies aimed at improving educational attainment and reducing child poverty; combating racial discrimination, particularly in the context of health care; improve mental and behavioral health support for young men; “supporting quality and accessible care”; and enact “general safety measures, including related to gun and vehicle safety and accidents.
Despite these suggestions, Rogers said the United States will likely fall further behind its peers in coming years, even as improvements have been made for older Americans and for chronic or degenerative diseases.
“It’s very good,” he said. “What kind of improvements do we expect early in life? I don’t know if we’re going to see many. If you reduce the external causes – there are not many signals that we master and push to reduce mortality.