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Mortality Rates for Youths Drop

Growing opioid crisis fueling suicide increase according to study

The mortality rate for infants, teens, and young adults in the U.S. is decreasing, according to a study published in September in JAMA Pediatrics. But despite the overall good news, say researchers at the National Institutes of Health, there are still major areas for concern.

By 2015, the U.S. had surpassed the Healthy People 2020 goal of a 10% reduction in mortality for infants and youths up to 24-years-old. The Healthy People program, launched by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 1979, tracks 10-year objectives for improving health based on guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

According to the study, the declining mortality rate is largely attributable to reductions in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), congenital malformations in infants, and homicide and unintentional injuries in youth. This resulted in approximately 12,000 total averted deaths in 2015, compared to the expected outcome had mortality rates remained stable.

However, mortality rates for infants, teens, and young adults in the U.S. are significantly higher than rates in other developed countries, specifically countries whose data are used in this study: Canada, England, and Wales. The researchers compared data from 1999 to 2002 and from 2012 to 2015.

In the U.S. from 1999 to 2015, more than 1.1 million infants and young adults died of any cause. In Canada the number of deaths was 81,000 and in England and Wales the number was 121,000.

In addition, there remain striking racial disparities in mortality rates in the U.S., as well as an increase in death rates due to suicide and drug overdoses among young adults aged 20 to 24 years. (The other age groups looked at were infants, children aged 1 to 9 years, adolescents aged 10 to 14 years, and young adults aged 15 to 19 years.)

In 2015, black infants were 2.3 times more likely to die than white infants. Mortality rates among black adolescents and young adults were 50% higher than rates among their white counterparts, mostly due to higher rates of homicide, the study stated.

Drug poisoning and suicide mortality rates have recently increased among U.S. adolescents and young adults. However, it remains unclear whether those rates have increased equally across races/ethnicities and to what extent the increases have influenced overall trends in mortality rates.

Source: JAMA Network, October 1, 2018

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