About 40,000 US kids have lost a parent to COVID-19, study says

Coronavirus

In a grim reminder of the death toll from COVID-19, a new study found that nearly 40,000 children in the United States have lost a parent to the virus.

More than 556,500 people have died in the U.S. since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics projects an estimated 37,000 to 43,000 children ages 0 to 17 have lost one of their parents to the virus.

Those numbers represent a 17.5 to 20.2% increase in children who lose a parent in a typical year, according to the study. Researchers predict the number to grow as the pandemic continues to impact families.

Children who lose a parent are at elevated risk of traumatic grief, depression, poor educational outcomes, and unintentional death or suicide, and these consequences can persist into adulthood.1 Sudden parental death, such as that occurring owing to COVID-19, can be particularly traumatizing for children and leave families ill prepared to navigate its consequences. Moreover, COVID-19 losses are occurring at a time of social isolation, institutional strain, and economic hardship, potentially leaving bereaved children without the supports they need.

Estimates and Projections of COVID-19 and Parental Death in the US

The study also found that Black children are disproportionately impacted, with 20% of children who lost a parent to the virus being Black, despite Black children only making up 14% of the population.

The authors of the study said they used demographic modeling, as opposed to surveys or administrative data.

The study also does not include numbers for the loss of non-parental primary caregivers. 

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