Youth Despair Pandemic
None of the Risk, All of the Burden
COVID-19 deaths are incredibly rare among children. The CDC keeps a provisional list of deaths and updates frequently. At the time I am writing this 8/20/2021, there are 420 children (0-18) in the US who died from COVID-19 out of the 75 million children living in the US. That's about 0.00056 %. While it is tragic, it is still rare. Even more rare than child deaths from drowning in residential pools.
Children under 15 are more likely to die in a residential pool drowning than from COVID19. During the entire (18 month) pandemic, 134 kids under 15 died from COVID. The average of death by drowning under 15 is 379 per year (12 months). Statistically, 80% of all drownings occur in residential pools. An estimated 303 kids died in these backyard pools, this means that Children under 15 are at least 2 times more likely to die in a residential pool than from COVID-19. Despite mitigation efforts with fences and gates around the pools, and parents watching their children, these tragedies still occur. However, we have yet to fill in all the residential pools in the US to prevent these tragic deaths. In fact, more backyard pools were ordered during the pandemic than any other year.
Overall, in 2020 and 2021, there was no increase child mortality for the ages of 0-15 when compared to the last 5 years. Which is great news. Children are unlikely to be affected by COVID19 as shown by the low rate of pediatric hospitalizations.
Frighteningly, for older kids and young adults, pandemic measures have made mortality worse. The age most susceptible to suicide, 15-24 age bracket constitutes 91% of youth suicides. From 2019 to 2020, attempted suicides for young girls increased 51%.
Robert Redfield former CDC director remarked that
there has been another cost that we’ve seen, particularly in high schools. We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID-19. We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose.
Deaths of despair are on the rise, particularly for the younger generation who are less likely to be affected by COVID-19. Death due to suicide, illegal drug use and alcoholism have all increased due to the mental stress brought on by the disruption of daily life due to the government’s response COVID-19 pandemic
An acceleration of overdose deaths during the pandemic is reflected in the 30% increase in overdose deaths in the United States. For ages 15-24 the alarming number almost 5,000 overdose deaths in 2019 has increased for ages 15 to 24. Compare this to the 1,078 COVID-19 deaths from Jan 2020 to August 2021. Over 5 times more young adults (15-24) will die from an overdose than COVID-19.
There is no question that these pandemic measures are taking a toll on youth’s mental heath. There could be longer term effects that they may struggle with the rest of their life. The proportion of related mental health Emergency Room visits increased during a time where people were less likely to visit a healthcare professional.
Pandemic measures cause more negative impact in our healthy youth than the actual disease itself. Dr Marty Markary MD, MPH, from Hopkins, partnering with Fair Health non-profit, pulled 48,000 charts of children diagnosed with COVID19 and discovered 0 healthy children died from the disease. After a comprehensive review on thousands of children, the team “found a mortality rate of zero among children without a pre-existing medical condition such as leukemia.”
Children are not at any particular risk for death or long term damage from COVID-19 but think about the long term mental health impact on your child when you tell them to cover their mouth to prevent their breath from killing someone. That is a heavy burden to place on such tiny shoulders. Its time to let these kids live a normal life, for their own mental health.