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Leading Cause of Death of Youth in the U.S: Guns

Black youth also had higher rates of drowning deaths (1.6 times as high) and fire-related deaths (2.3 times as high) than white youth.

USA, youth
Mourners grieve at a vigil in honor of Edward and Edwin Bryant, twin brothers who at age 17 were shot and killed in Chicago, Illinois, Oct. 31, 2016. VOA

Motor vehicles and firearms kill young Americans more than any other cause, like disease, which has significantly declined, according to a new study.

The New England Journal of Medicine reports that less than 2 percent (or 20,360) of all U.S. deaths — including adults — occur among children and adolescents 1 to 19 years old.

“By 2016,” the year for which the most recent data are available, “death among children and adolescents had become a rare event,” study authors Dr. Rebecca M. Cunningham, Maureen A. Walton and Dr. Patrick M. Carter of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor wrote in the Dec. 20 edition.

But in the second largest cause of death among young people — death by firearms — the U.S. leads the world.

“The rate of firearm deaths among children and adolescents was higher in the United States than in all other high-income countries and low-to-middle-income countries with available 2016 data,” the authors wrote, or 36.5 times as high as 12 other “high-income” countries.

Mass shooting, youth
Grace Fisher is a mom who is fearful for her three children. She said something needs to change with regard to gun regulations. She lives in a neighborhood near Thousand Oaks, site of the most recent U.S. mass shooting. VOA

Data for 2017, which are not included in the NEJM article, show a continued increase in firearm deaths for children and adolescents, Cunningham said.

“One in three U.S. homes with youth under 18 years of age has a firearm, with 43 percent of homes reporting that the firearm is kept unlocked and loaded, which increases the risk of firearm injuries,” the authors reported. “In addition to differences in availability between the United States and other countries, there is wide variability across countries in laws relating to the purchase of firearms, access to them and safe storage.”

At the same time, “early diagnosis, vaccinations, antibiotics, and medical and surgical treatment” resulted in “declines in deaths from infectious disease or cancer,” the report said.

And while motor vehicle events were the leading cause of death for young people, that cause has declined 38 percent over the past decade, the authors wrote.

What caused the declines?

“Seat belts and appropriate child safety seats, the production of cars with improved safety standards, better constructed roads, graduated driver licensing programs, and a focus on reducing teen drinking and driving,” the authors wrote, noting that the decline occurred at the same time as increases in the number of U.S. vehicles and annual vehicle-miles traveled.

Among youth 10 to 19 years of age, injury deaths from motor vehicle crashes, firearms and suffocation were the three leading causes. VOA

But there’s a hitch: Between 2013 and 2016, research showed the decline leveling. And while researchers said they didn’t know for certain, they suspected that distracted driving by teenagers, by other teens in a car or by cellphone use, explained the leveling. The report also wondered about marijuana use and drugged driving leading to “decreased risk perceptions among adolescents.”

Among firearm deaths, 59 percent were homicides, 35 percent were suicides, and 4 percent were unintentional injuries such as accidental discharges of firearms, which aligns with incidents among Americans older than 20.

Death by firearms

Among the unintentional firearm deaths — less than 2 percent of all U.S. firearm deaths — 26 percent occurred among children and adolescents, the report said.

“Malignant neoplasms,” like cancer, were the third-leading cause of death, representing 9 percent of deaths among children and adolescents. That was followed by suffocation (7 percent) because of “bed linens, plastic bags, obstruction of the airway, hanging or strangulation.”

Among the youngest children, 1 to 4 years-old, drowning in swimming pools, rivers and lakes was the most common cause of death, the report said. Death by drowning was more rare in older children, “which potentially reflects widespread swim training among school-aged children.”

Gun control, youth
A man wears an unloaded pistol during a pro gun-rights rally at the state capitol, Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Austin, Texas. Gun rights supporters rallied across the United States to counter a recent wave of student-led protests against gun violence. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) VOA

Among youth 10 to 19 years of age, injury deaths from motor vehicle crashes, firearms and suffocation were the three leading causes. Researchers said these causes reflected “increased risk-taking behavior, differential peer and parental influence, and initiation of substance use.”

Drug overdoses or poisonings rose to the sixth-leading cause of death among children and adolescents in 2016, the report said, attributed to an increase in “opioid overdoses, which account for well over half of all drug overdoses among adolescents.”

Mortality was higher among blacks (38.2 per 100,000) and American Indians or Alaska Natives (28.0 per 100,000) than among whites (24.2 per 100,000) and Asians or Pacific Islanders (15.9 per 100,000), the authors wrote. Deaths related to firearms were the leading cause of death among black youth and occurred 3.7 times the rate of such deaths among white youth.

Drowning deaths

Black youth also had higher rates of drowning deaths (1.6 times as high) and fire-related deaths (2.3 times as high) than white youth. Blacks had death rates from heart disease and chronic lower respiratory diseases such as asthma that were 2.1 and 6.3 times as high, respectively, as the rates among white youth.

Also Read: Video: Orange Rallies in US Honor Victims of Gun Violence

“Such disparities probably reflect underlying socioeconomic issues, including poverty, environmental exposures and differential access to health care services,” the researchers wrote.

“Progress toward further reducing deaths among children and adolescents will require a shift in public perceptions so that injury deaths are viewed not as ‘accidents,’ but rather as social ecologic phenomena that are amenable to prevention.” the authors concluded. (VOA)

Next Story

New AI can Reduce Risk of Suicide Among Youth

AI can help prevent suicide among youth

Researchers from USC developed an AI that can prevent suicide risks among youth. Lifetime Stock

In a bid to help mitigate the risk of suicide especially among the homeless youth, a team of researchers at University of California (USC) has turned their focus towards Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Phebe Vayanos, an associate director at USC’s Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society (CAIS), and her team have been working over the last couple of years to design an algorithm capable of identifying who in a given real-life social group would be the best persons to be trained as “gatekeepers” capable of identifying warning signs of suicide and how to respond.

“Our idea was to leverage real-life social network information to build a support network of strategically positioned individuals that can ‘watch-out’ for their friends and refer them to help as needed,” Vayanos said.

Vayanos and study’s lead author Aida Rahmattalabi investigated the potential of social connections such as friends, relatives and acquaintances to help mitigate the risk of suicide.

“We want to ensure that a maximum number of people are being watched out for, taking into account resource limitations and uncertainties of open world deployment,” Vayanos said.

Youth suicide
The AI algorithm can improve the efficiency of suicide prevention trainings. Lifetime Stock

For this study, Vayanos and Rahmattalabi looked at the web of social relationships of young people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles, given that 1 in 2 youth who are homeless have considered suicide.

“Our algorithm can improve the efficiency of suicide prevention trainings for this particularly vulnerable population,” Vayanos said.

An important goal when deploying this AI system is to ensure fairness and transparency.

“This algorithm can help us find a subset of people in a social network that gives us the best chance that youth will be connected to someone who has been trained when dealing with resource constraints and other uncertainties,” said study co-author Anthony Fulginiti.

Also Read- Yoga as Good as Aerobic Exercise for Super Brain Health

This work is particularly important for vulnerable populations, say the researchers, particularly for youth who are experiencing homelessness.

The paper is set to be presented at the 33rd Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) in Vancouver, Canada, this month. (IANS)