The Grapevine

Top Death Causes For US Kids: Car Accidents, Guns

What are the major causes of death in younger age groups in the United States? Given how several trends have been changing or remaining stagnant over the years, the question is worth exploring.

In a new study conducted by the University of Michigan, researchers looked at data from 2016 to find answers. The examined set of data included more than 20,000 deaths in the age group of 1 to 19 years.

Car crashes were found to be the number one cause of death followed by firearms. The findings, which detailed the top ten leading causes, were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Looking back, the rate of firearm deaths has remained stagnant through this millennium until 2013. Over the next three years, the nation would see a 28 percent increase. In 2016, more than 3,140 children and teenagers died from various kinds of gun injuries.

Overall, homicides accounted for 60 percent of deaths, suicides for 35 percent, accidental injuries for about one percent, and mass shootings slightly less than one percent. The rate of firearm deaths did not differ much between urban, rural and suburban settings.

"Firearm deaths of children and adolescents are an ‘everybody’ problem, not a problem for just a certain population," said lead author Rebecca Cunningham, of the U-M Department of Emergency Medicine.

Meanwhile, cancer ranked in third place followed by suffocation (noted to be suicides in most cases) in fourth place. Moving further down the list, other causes of death included drowning, drug overdoses, birth defects, etc. Experts were particularly concerned that a majority of deaths — an estimated 60 percent — were due to preventable injuries.

Edward W. Campion, the executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, called the numbers "shameful" in an accompanying editorial. Highlighting a lack of interventions, he asked why a major developed nation like the U.S. is not doing more to protect children.

To present a comparison, he drew attention to another study which was published earlier this year. One of the findings estimated that a child in the U.S. is 57 percent more likely to die by the age of 19 compared to children in other wealthy countries.

"Perhaps one of the few core beliefs that all can agree on is that deaths in childhood and adolescence are tragedies that we must find ways to prevent," he wrote. "Shouldn’t a child in the United States have the same chance to grow up as a child in Germany or Spain or Canada?"

If you have thoughts of suicide, confidential help is available for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. The line is available 24 hours, every day.