Black Youth Are Dying at Higher Rates Than White Counterparts

(HealthDay News) — There are racial and ethnic disparities for nearly all leading causes of injury and disease tied to youth mortality, according to a study published online May 4 in the Journal of the American Medical Association to coincide with the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, held from May 2 to 6 in Toronto.

Elizabeth R. Wolf, M.D., from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond, and colleagues compared all-cause and cause-specific mortality trends (1999 to 2020) and rates (2016 to 2020) among youth with Hispanic ethnicity and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black, and White race. The analysis included youth (aged 1 to 19 years) identified using the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research database.

The researchers found that all-cause mortality ratios were 2.03 among American Indian or Alaska Native youth, 0.63 among Asian or Pacific Islander youth, 1.76 among Black youth, and 0.89 among Hispanic youth compared with White youth. For Black youth, the homicide rate was 12.81 per 100,000 or 10.20 times that of White youth. For American Indian or Alaska Native youth, the suicide rate was 11.37 per 100,000, or 2.60 times that of White youth. For Black youth, the firearm mortality rate was 12.88 per 100,000, which was 4.14 times that of White youth, while the firearm mortality rate of American Indian or Alaska Native youth was 6.67 per 100,000, which was 2.14 times that of White youth. Asthma mortality among Black youth was 1.10 per 100,000, which was 7.80 times that of White youth.

“In this study, racial and ethnic disparities were observed for almost all leading causes of injury and disease that were associated with recent increases in youth mortality rates,” the authors write.

Leading causes of death for Black American youth

Black American youth face a disproportionate burden when it comes to mortality rates. While accidents and illnesses affect all young people, the specific causes and contributing factors differ significantly for this demographic. Understanding the leading causes of death for Black youth is crucial to develop targeted interventions and ensure a brighter future for this population.

One of the most concerning issues is violence. Homicide stands out as the leading cause of death for Black males aged 1-19 and 20-44, with rates more than ten times higher than their white counterparts. This disparity highlights the complex social and economic factors that contribute to gun violence in Black communities. Poverty, lack of opportunity, and exposure to violence can create a dangerous environment where young Black men are more likely to be victims or perpetrators of homicide.

Accidents, particularly those involving motor vehicles, also play a significant role. While car accidents are a leading cause of death for all youth in the United States, Black youth are disproportionately impacted. Research suggests this may be due to factors like lower access to safe transportation options and a higher prevalence of distracted driving in certain communities.

However, the story goes beyond violence and accidents. Underlying health conditions also contribute to the higher mortality rates among Black youth. Asthma, for example, disproportionately affects Black children, with death rates eight times higher than white children. Socioeconomic factors like poor air quality, lack of access to healthcare, and inadequate housing contribute to this disparity. Additionally, Black youth are more likely to experience complications from influenza and pneumonia. These trends point to a need for improved access to healthcare and preventative measures specifically tailored to the Black community.

While suicide rates are higher among white youth nationally, there is a concerning rise in suicidal ideation and attempts among Black youth. The unique pressures of racism, social marginalization, and limited access to mental health resources can contribute to this issue. Addressing these mental health needs is vital to ensure the well-being of Black youth.

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