About 40,000 U.S. Children Have Lost a Parent to COVID

MONDAY April 5, 2021 (HealthDay News) – More than 40,000 American children have lost a parent to COVID-19 and the long-term impacts could be severe, experts warn.

Americans under 65 are responsible for about 1 in 5 COVID deaths. Of these, up to 15% involve someone in their 40s and 3% involve someone in their 40s.

“In these younger age groups, a significant number of people are having children, for whom the loss of a parent is a potentially devastating challenge,” said Ashton Verdery, associate professor of sociology, demography and analysis social data at Penn State University.

Using a statistical model to estimate the number of children who have lost a parent to COVID since February last year, researchers say three-quarters are teenagers and the rest are young people of going to school age. ‘primary school.

This reality is more dire for black families, who have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, researchers said. Of those who have lost a parent, an estimated 20% are black children, although only 14% of the country’s children are black.

The study estimates that deaths from COVID will increase the total number of parental bereavement cases in the country by 18% to 20% in a more typical year – straining a system that already fails to connect all children eligible for the necessary resources.

In comparison, the number of children who have lost a parent to COVID is about 13 times the estimated number of 3,000 children who have lost a parent in the World Trade Center attacks.

Verdery said children who have lost their parents to the pandemic are at greater risk of suffering from prolonged traumatic grief and depression, lower education levels, economic insecurity, and accidental death or suicide.

And the losses from COVID come at a time when children may face other pandemic challenges, including social isolation and economic struggles. This can restrict their access to support services at a time when they are also less connected to other family and community supports.

“Teachers are a vital resource in identifying and assisting at-risk children,” Verdery said in a university press release, noting that this is one of the reasons it is important for schools to resume. teaching in person as soon as it is safe. to do this and provide support to overworked educators.


Research suggests that widely disseminated proven interventions could help avoid serious psychological problems in bereaved children, although some may need longer-term support, the authors said.

“I think the first thing we need to do is proactively link all children to available supports to which they are entitled, like Social Security Child Survival Benefits – research shows only about half of children Eligible are tied to these programs under normal circumstances, but those that do much better, ”Verdery said.“ We should also consider expanding eligibility for these resources. Second, a national effort to identify and provide counseling and related resources to all children who lose a parent is vital. “

The results appear in the April 5 issue of Pediatrics JAMA.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more information on how to help children cope with grief.

SOURCE: Penn State, press release, April 5, 2021

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