Trends and disparities in deaths among young persons in the US during the COVID-19 pandemic

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Annals of epidemiology






Children; Excess mortality; Injuries; Vital statistics


PURPOSE: To examine changes in death rates by demographic group and by the leading causes of death in U.S. persons 1 to 24 years of age during the COVID-19 pandemic. METHODS: A retrospective cross-sectional study using mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System from April 2017 to March 2023. Pre-pandemic death rates were compared with death rates during the pandemic overall, by race/ethnicity, age, sex, and cause group. RESULTS: Age-adjusted death rates in young persons 1-24 years of age increased by 14.3% during the pandemic. Injury-related causes accounted for 78.2% of the increase, driven mainly by increases in homicides and unintentional injuries related to drug overdose, firearms, and motor-vehicle traffic crashes. Non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic teens and young adults experienced the largest increases in deaths overall and across the leading causes of death. CONCLUSIONS: During the COVID-19 pandemic, injury-related causes accounted for the majority of the increases in deaths in children and young adults, driven mainly by firearms, drug overdoses, and motor vehicle traffic crashes. Findings highlight the importance of understanding the drivers of these marked increases in injury-related mortality and the need for injury prevention efforts among children even in the context of an infectious disease pandemic.