From 2011 to 2021, there was a steep increase in gun deaths and drug poisoning deaths among children, even as injuries from most other causes decreased over the decade, according to a new study.
The study released Thursday by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that youth gun deaths increased 87.1% over the decade while drug poisoning fatalities among children more than doubled. There was a smaller increase in suffocation fatalities during the decade. The rise in fatal injuries came as nonfatal injuries from things such as falls and motor vehicle accidents significantly declined from 2011 to 2021.
The study said that fatal injury rates in 2011 were 14.07 per 100,000 children. By 2021, that number increased to 17.30 per 100,000 youths.
The data indicated that firearm and drug poisoning deaths had even more significant jumps in 2020 and 2021. The authors of the study noted that it was unclear what role the pandemic had on these figures.
However, fatal gun-related injuries had steadily been rising in the years leading up to the pandemic, the study found.
"There is work to be done," said study co-author Rebekah Mannix, associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. "We have bent the arc in terms of reducing pediatric nonfatal injuries overall but fatal injuries are on the rise because kids have more access to lethal means (firearms, drugs)."
The study noted that there had been a 66.7% decrease in overexertion injuries, a 63% reduction in struck-by injuries, and a 47.3% decrease in motor vehicle injuries among children.
"In the past five decades, stakeholders from industry, politics and medicine joined forces to make advances in motor vehicle safety, which were enacted at every level from production lines to pediatricians’ offices," Mannix said. "Those multidisciplinary teams made all the difference in reducing injuries and deaths in children due to motor vehicle collisions. We need that same sort of stakeholder engagement to address the current epidemic of injury deaths in children and adolescents."
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