COVID-19 A Leading Cause of Death Among Children and Young People

Article

A 2021 morbidity study found that COVID-19 was among the leading causes of death in children and young people.

COVID-19 was a leading cause of death for children and young people (CYP) in the United States from August 1, 2021, to July 31, 2022, according to a recent study published in JAMA Network Open.

Over 360,000 deaths occurred in the United States from COVID-19 between August 1, 2021, and July 31, 2022. Of these, 821 were reported in CYP aged 0 to 19 years, with the risk of death from COVID-19 significantly lower in children than in other age groups.

As death from all causes is rare in pediatric patients, the mortality burden of COVID-19 can be measured through comparison to other significant causes of death in CYP. Mortality statistics can be obtained from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research database.

Investigators determined the 10 leading causes of death among CYP in 2019, then determined whether COVID-19 was within the 10 leading causes of death in this age group during the study period. The 10 leading causes of death were determined by the US National Center for Health Statistics.

According to authors of the study, “an underlying cause of death is defined as a disease or injury that initiates a series of events leading directly to death.” Investigators reported crude death rates per 100,000 individuals.

The crude death rate from COVID-19 among CYP was 1 per 100,000. This rate was 4.3 per 100,000 in infants aged under 1 year, 0.6 per 100,000 in children aged 1 to 4 years, 0.4 per 100,000 in children aged 5 to 9 years, 0.5 per 100,000 in children aged 10 to 14 years, and 1.8 per 100,000 in adolescents aged 15 to 19 years.

Leading causes of death among CYP in 2019 were perinatal conditions at 12.7 per 100,000, unintentional injuries at 9.1 per 100,000, congenital malformations or deformations at 6.5 per 100,000, assault at 3.4 per 100,000, suicide at 3.4 per 100,000, malignant neoplasms at 2.1 per 100,000, heart diseases at 1.1 per 100,000, and influenza and pneumonia at 0.6 per 100,000. In this ranking, COVID-19 is ranked as the eighth leading cause of death.

When disaggregating rankings by age group, COVID-19 remained in the top 10 leading causes of death in CYP, being seventh for those aged under 1 year, seventh for those aged 1 to 4 years, sixth for those aged 5 to 9 years, sixth for those aged 10 to 14 years, and fifth for those aged 15 to 19 years.

The 10 leading causes of death remained mostly unchanged from 2015 to 2019, and from 2019 to 2020 and 2021. The exception to this was COVID-19 being among the 10 leading causes of death in 2021. This showed COVID-19 to be a leading cause of death among CYP.

Reference

1. Flaxman S, Whittaker C, Semenova E, Rashid T, Park RM, Blenkinsop A, et al. Assessment of COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death among children and young people aged 0 to 19 years in the US. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(1):e2253590. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.53590

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