SEVERE WX : Flash Flood Watch View Alerts

A 'wake-up call' about what's killing America's young people

There has been a significant rise in accidental deaths, homicides and suicides among young people across the United S...

Posted: Jun 1, 2018 2:53 PM
Updated: Jun 1, 2018 2:53 PM

There has been a significant rise in accidental deaths, homicides and suicides among young people across the United States, and experts are calling it a wake-up call.

The total death rate for 10- to 19-year-olds in the United States declined 33% between 1999 and 2013 but then suddenly soared 12% between 2013 and 2016, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (PDF).

Accidental deaths rose 13% among 10- to 19-year-olds in the US between 2013 and 2016

Suicide and homicide rates are also rising among this age group after declining for years

"We should be worried about this," one expert says

The report, released Friday, revealed that this rise in deaths is attributable to injury-related deaths, such as traffic accident fatalities, drug overdoses, homicides and suicides, as opposed to illness, such as cancer or heart disease.

"When I first conceded to do this report 2- years ago, I thought that we would be documenting a decline," said Sally Curtin, a statistician at the CDC in Washington and lead author of the report.

"We were surprised that there was such a broad increase across so many causes of death," she said. "There wasn't just one that was contributing."

In general, the leading causes of death among adolescents ages 15 to 19 in the United States are unintentional injuries such as car crash-related injuries, followed by suicide and homicide, according to the CDC.

Among 10- to 19-year-olds around the world, road traffic injuries were the leading cause of death in 2015, followed by lower respiratory infections and suicide, according to the World Health Organization.

Car crashes, drug overdoses and gun deaths

The new report was based on data from death certificates filed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 1999 and 2016. Death certificates are generally completed by funeral directors, attending physicians, medical examiners and coroners.

Those data, from the National Vital Statistics System, were collected and processed through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Researchers analyzed the data, taking a close look at the age of the person who died and the reported cause of death.

The data showed that unintentional injuries or accidents were the leading cause of injury-related deaths among 10- to 19-year-olds in 2016, followed by suicide and then homicide.

The rate of accidental deaths for 10- to 19-year-olds declined 49% between 1999 and 2013, dropping from 20.6 deaths per 100,000 people to 10.6 per 100,000. Then, the rate rose 13% between 2013 and 2016, increasing to 12 per 100,000.

Motor vehicle traffic fatalities accounted for 62% of these unintentional injury deaths, followed by poisoning at 16% and drowning at 7%. Those three methods of accidental deaths accounted for 85% of all unintentional injury-related deaths in 2016.

"The poisoning deaths do include drug overdoses: Ninety percent of poisoning deaths are drug overdoses, and most of them are in older adolescents," Curtin said.

The data showed that suicide rates among 10- to 19-year-olds declined by 15% between 1999 and 2007, dropping from 4.6 per 100,000 to 3.9 per 100,000. Then the rate increased by 56%, going up to 6.1 in 2016. The three leading methods of suicide that year were suffocation, firearms and poisoning.

As for homicides, the data showed a brief period of decline in rates between 1999 and 2001, followed by an increase between 2001 and 2007. Homicide rates dropped 35% between 2007 and 2014, from 5.7 per 100,000 to 3.7 per 100,000, and then rose 27% to 4.7 per 100,000 in 2016. Among the leading methods of homicide were firearms and cutting or piercing.

Firearms, in general, accounted for 87% of all homicides and 43% of all suicides.

These findings have some limitations, including that there is variation by state or geographic area in how medical examiners classify deaths and are required to rule a death a suicide. Suicide tends to be under-reported, especially when it involves drug overdoses.

"Accurate recording of the circumstances surrounding the death as well as classifying the death obviously would be a limitation, and especially within the context of a drug overdose," Curtin said. "Oftentimes, it's hard to tell, unless there's a suicide note, whether it was a suicide or unintentional."

'This is a wake-up call that we need to pay attention'

Dr. Thomas Weiser, a trauma surgeon at Stanford University Medical Center who was not involved in the new report, called the findings "very concerning."

"This should not be happening and bucks the trend that we as a country have experienced in the past several decades. We should be worried about this," said Weiser, who's also an associate professor of surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine.

"Our children are our country's future, and we as a society need to recognize when they are in trouble. This disturbing trend should be a wake-up call that mental health services, injury prevention, gun safety and ongoing efforts to improve car and driver safety need support, attention, and financial resources," he said. "Our investments now as a society will be paid back handsomely when our children grow up to be healthy, productive adults."

His concerns were echoed by Dr. Tina Cheng, director of the Department of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Medicine who was not involved in the new report.

"As a pediatrician and health care leader, the findings are consistent with what we are seeing: greater numbers of children coming to our clinics and emergency departments with mental health problems including depression, suicide and aggression, full beds on our mental health ward and lack of inpatient and outpatient services for children in dire need of treatment," said Cheng, who's also a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Yet "this is a wake-up call that we need to pay attention to the health and well-being of our children," she added. "It is hard to know the precise reason for the upturn in unintentional, intentional and self-inflicted injuries. Some have suggested that social media and cyberbullying may be contributing. Others have pointed to growing income inequality."

In 2016, 19% of children under 18 in the United States -- about one in five -- lived in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold, which at the time was $24,339 for a family of four with two children, $19,318 for a family of three with one child and $16,543 for a family of two with one child, according to a report published in January by the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University in New York.

A separate study published Thursday in the medical journal JAMA also found that among teens and young adults, 15 to 34 years old, there were increasing deaths due to injuries between 2012 and 2016. The three leading causes of death in that older age group also were unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes, poisoning and drowning; suicide; and homicide.

To reduce the risk of injury-related deaths among youth, Weiser said, prevention services are key.

"Tackling the opioid epidemic is a massive issue and should be a priority. Access to mental health services for troubled or depressed adolescents is also fundamentally important," Weiser said.

"Most suicides are preventable with appropriate resources and counseling and by creating more barriers to lethal forms of self-harm, for example by locking up firearms and keeping them unloaded," he said. "Without a doubt, easy access to guns drives the homicide rate in the United States. This is such a fundamental issue to address through gun safety programs that are effective and widespread."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 752108

Reported Deaths: 13816
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1033831790
Lake558431013
Allen41736693
St. Joseph37007565
Hamilton36617417
Elkhart29425461
Tippecanoe22938228
Vanderburgh22565400
Porter19369327
Johnson18486389
Hendricks17696317
Clark13233195
Madison13176344
Vigo12631253
LaPorte12429221
Monroe12226176
Delaware10970198
Howard10349224
Kosciusko9643121
Hancock8578147
Bartholomew8174157
Warrick7864156
Floyd7815180
Grant7248179
Wayne7164201
Boone6979103
Morgan6768141
Dubois6224118
Marshall6214116
Cass6024110
Henry5903110
Dearborn589878
Noble581688
Jackson509476
Shelby502396
Lawrence4753122
Gibson445595
Clinton443555
Harrison441775
DeKalb440385
Montgomery439890
Whitley406744
Huntington403381
Steuben400859
Miami395769
Jasper389155
Knox377691
Putnam373461
Wabash362383
Ripley347370
Adams345555
Jefferson336186
White332753
Daviess3035100
Wells295481
Decatur289892
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey274335
LaGrange273272
Scott270356
Clay267148
Washington246336
Randolph245183
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228159
Fountain222048
Sullivan214843
Owen212358
Fulton204043
Jay201032
Carroll193820
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion175344
Franklin170435
Tipton166646
Parke149616
Pike138334
Blackford136232
Pulaski120847
Newton114936
Brown104443
Benton102614
Crawford102516
Martin91815
Warren84115
Switzerland8158
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0424

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1109697

Reported Deaths: 20213
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1289521469
Cuyahoga1158802216
Hamilton814201251
Montgomery525861049
Summit484551006
Lucas43384824
Butler39098606
Stark33355930
Lorain25689506
Warren24612305
Mahoning22388602
Lake21219389
Clermont20138253
Delaware18892136
Licking16671225
Fairfield16589204
Trumbull16560483
Medina15618273
Greene15292248
Clark14244306
Wood13296200
Portage13254216
Allen11919239
Richland11611211
Miami10857225
Wayne9153225
Columbiana9039230
Muskingum8909135
Pickaway8664122
Tuscarawas8654251
Marion8649139
Erie8058165
Ashtabula7171179
Hancock6999133
Ross6948163
Geauga6850151
Scioto6540106
Belmont6159174
Union585049
Lawrence5741102
Jefferson5683159
Huron5554122
Sandusky5444126
Darke5420129
Seneca5350128
Washington5321109
Athens524460
Auglaize502487
Mercer487785
Shelby477095
Knox4573112
Madison444566
Ashland435997
Putnam4336104
Defiance432399
Fulton432274
Crawford4046110
Brown402761
Logan387678
Preble3859105
Clinton379266
Ottawa373581
Highland360266
Williams348578
Champaign344959
Guernsey325254
Jackson318454
Perry297350
Morrow291940
Fayette285750
Hardin275765
Henry273867
Holmes2703101
Coshocton269360
Van Wert247264
Adams243156
Pike242835
Gallia240850
Wyandot234756
Hocking220663
Carroll197548
Paulding176642
Meigs148540
Monroe136345
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan110124
Vinton85717
Unassigned03
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
77° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 79°
Angola
Mostly Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 73°
Huntington
Cloudy
76° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 78°
Decatur
Cloudy
77° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 79°
Van Wert
Mostly Cloudy
80° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 81°
Daily rounds of showers and thunderstorms will increase the flood threat across northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events