STUMP » Articles » Childhood Mortality Trends, 1999-2021 (provisional), Ages 1-17 Revisited: Teen Mortality Increased 30% 2019 to 2021 » 25 August 2022, 20:05

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Childhood Mortality Trends, 1999-2021 (provisional), Ages 1-17 Revisited: Teen Mortality Increased 30% 2019 to 2021  

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25 August 2022, 20:05

It wasn’t due to COVID, which we already knew, as per my earlier post. It was due to a bunch of external cause nasties, and we will see more detail below.

The reason I’m revisiting this since my earlier post is that now many causes of death are no longer censored for 2021. Many deaths for children are external causes of death, which are the kinds of deaths that are censored for six months by the CDC as a matter of course.

So I can now do a breakout as I had done for the adult generations (no, I will not give them a cutesy-poo marketing term for their generation. They’ve had to suffer enough.)

Let’s stop for a moment before we move forward. In 2020, the childhood age groups of 1-4 and 5-12 actually saw death rates decrease 3% (for both) compared to 2019.

In 2021, the death rates did increase compared to 2019, but barely. They increased 5% for the 1-4 years age group and 2% for the 5-12 years age group, for 2021 death rates compared to 2019.

The movement is mainly going on with the teens (age 13-17), which saw death rates increase in both 2020 and 2021. It increased 18% in 2020 compared to 2019, and 30% in 2021 compared to 2019. Below, we will see what causes of death contributed to these increases.

We will see that COVID barely contributed to these increases at all.

It was primarily extremely nasty causes: homicides, drug overdoses, and motor vehicle accidents.

1 – 4 years old

Long-term trend 1999-2021

Note that the causes of death I picked out for the youngest age group, especially the accidental causes of death, are very different from adults.

For one, drowning is a substantial cause of death for this age group. I wrote about that here, and given how distressing that is, I will not continue down that path. I mainly want to point it out because it’s about the same size as the death rate due to motor vehicle accidents, and I think most people are not aware of that.

I want to emphasize the vertical scale — the rates here are per 100,000 people per year. The death rate in 2021 is around 25 per 100,000, which is 0.025%. That is a very low rate.

Yes, it is a tragedy to consider deaths at this age, but we need to be aware of the magnitude of these rates compared to the much higher rates we will see at older ages.

Attribution of increase in mortality, 2020-2021:

For this age group and the next age group, this analysis is going to be very weird.

Mainly because a lot of the causes of death saw decreases in rate in both 2020 and 2021.

Rather than getting into percentages and all that, I mainly want you to look at how the contribution of COVID death rates compares to other causes of death, both in terms of positive and negative changes.

In short, for the preschool crowd, pretty much all the major causes of death (which did not include COVID), the change in those causes were much larger in magnitude than the COVID death rate itself.

Heck, the increase in deaths due to drowning for kids in this age group was higher than COVID deaths (and this is the increase, not the total number of drowning deaths).

I find it interesting that the flu/pneumonia deaths had decreased in both years.

5 – 12 years old

Long-term trend 1999-2021

Okay, this is the age group with the minimal death rates. Younger ages have somewhat higher death rates due to congenital problems and other issues surrounding infant mortality.

Older ages have higher death rates because mortality rates tend to increase with increasing age.

Note that cancer and motor vehicle accidents are the top causes of death for this age range.

COVID is barely there.

Attribution of increase in mortality, 2020-2021:

This age group saw an overall mortality decrease in 2020, so we’ll ignore that year for this graph.

In 2021, the increase… was barely there.

Sure, COVID by itself is the largest contributor on the positive side, but the negative side pretty much counterbalances it. Then homicide, drowning, and motor vehicle accidents together (in their increase from 2019 to 2021) are about the same amount in total as COVID death rates.

Trying to look at COVID effects while ignoring these other causes of death for school-aged children would be a very strange thing to do, given how important these causes of death are.

Again, most people don’t want to think about how significant drowning is for school-aged children, but it is a very significant cause of death.

13 – 17 years old

Long-term trend 1999-2021

And now, this is why I told you to pay attention to vertical scale. The age 5-12 age group had a graph with a maximum at 18.

Where’s the maximum of this graph? How does that compare?

Also note that I’ve put in a couple new causes of death on this graph that weren’t on the previous ones: suicide and drug ODs. Drowning is on this one, but you can barely see it now (because the vertical scale has changed.)

Suicide and drug ODs had to be added for this age group, because it went from barely detectable for the age 5-12 age crowd to HELLO! IT’S A TOP CAUSE OF DEATH!

In addition, mortality noticeably jumped up in 2020 and 2021, unlike the age groups under age 13.

Attribution of increase in mortality, 2020-2021:

That’s bad. That’s very bad.

Yes, an increase in homicide deaths for teens was the primary contributor to teen death increases in 2020 and 2021 compared to 2019.

Then drug overdoses.

Then motor vehicle accidents.

COVID came in at number 4.

Were people talking about preventing homicides, drug ODs, and motor vehicle accidents for teens in 2021?

Just asking. I just happen to remember an “overabundance of caution” surrounding COVID.

Maybe some will say “well, then, we were successful with COVID!” (and then push the extra adult COVID deaths under the rug) But it makes one wonder, what, exactly they were doing with closing schools for in-person attendance in many places where death via homicide and drug OD might have been a big risk. Or reduce police enforcement of road safety.

Dead is dead, whether it’s due to COVID, drug ODs, homicide, or motor vehicle accidents.

Summary tables of contribution to excess mortality

For 2020

You should just ignore the first two rows, because those percentages don’t really work when mortality decreases. It only decreased 3% anyway.

For age 13-17, mortality increased 18%, which is similar to the overall population, and the increase seen by the oldest adults as well.

Note that almost none of that increase came from COVID. It came from an increase in homicides, drug ODs, and motor vehicle accidents.

For 2021

For 2021, all age groups saw mortality increases, but the younger age groups again barely saw a change. I would just ignore that. For those under age 13, so few die, the rates are so low, it’s almost noise. I don’t see the point of spending any time looking at any of that.

However, for age 13-17, a 30% increase over 2019 is a substantial mortality increase.

Oh look! COVID contributed 12%! That’s substantial! Woo!

But not as substantial as the contributions made by the change in the death rates from homicide, drug ODs, and motor vehicle accidents.

Links to all the mortality posts by age group

Children — Age 1-17: this post. Under age 1 is infant mortality and requires special handling — I really don’t want to deal with this right now. If after all this analysis you think COVID has anything to do with infant mortality directly…. come on, man, as Biden might say. Secondary effects, to be sure. But not direct.
Young Adults — Age 18-39: approximately the Millennials in 2020-2021 Part 1 and Part 2, plus the podcast
Middle Agers — Age 40-59: approximately Gen X – Middle-aged Massacre (too!): Increase in Mortality for Ages 40-59 in the U.S. for 2020-2021 Mainly Driven By COVID
Young Seniors — Age 60-79: approximately Boomers – Baby Boomer Mortality Experience: Welcome to Old Age! 2020-2021 U.S. Mortality Increase for Ages 60-79 was Mostly COVID
Old Seniors — Age 80+: mainly Silent Generation (as older generations are mostly dead at this point) – Silent Generation Has Odd 2021: COVID Over 100% of 2021 Mortality Increase Compared to 2019 in the U.S. for those over age 85

If this is the substack post, the spreadsheet download goes here.

Was anybody going to point out the increase in homicide deaths in teens?

Well.

What do you think?

I will just give you the absolute numbers, and then link to my prior homicide posts.

For ages 13-17, here is the “base” number of homicides in the U.S. I’m comparing against: 832 deaths in 2019. This translated into a rate of 4 per 100,000.

In 2020, the number of homicide deaths for ages 13-17 in the U.S. was 1,202 at a rate of 5.7.

In 2021, the number of homicide deaths was 1,364 at a rate of 6.5.

This is just for those who were age 13-17 years old when they died. The rates are much worse for those in their 20s.

My prior posts on homicide rates:

13 February 2022: Homicide: Trends, 1968-2020, and Provisional Counts Through June 2021

20 Feb 2022: The Geography of Homicide — States, Base Rates, Increases, and Correlations

In contrast, the number of COVID deaths for age 13-17 in the U.S.:

2020: 51
2021: 205

I have a feeling various public health folks think they can control COVID deaths more than they can control homicide deaths among teens.

I have a feeling they might have about as much power in both cases.


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