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According to  research comparing the death rates among all wealthy nations, Black and Mexican American youth were found to face the highest mortality rate of them all. The findings leave professionals looking for policy solutions to address the disparity.  

In 2019, the U.S. life expectancy at birth was 78.8 years. The National Vital Statistics found that 59,865 people under 25 years old died that year, including 20,921 infants under the age of one. While young Americans under the age of 25 face the highest death rates, Black and Mexican youth make up the majority of those rates, lowering life expectancy. 

The World Health Organization states that a person’s quality of life is highly dependent on the social determinants of health. These determinants of health reflect a culmination of where a person lives, learns, works, and plays. It also reflects how those areas affect the wellbeing of an individual and their community. 

Inequalities in socioeconomic resources help explain the racial/ethnic disparities in early life mortality.  Not surprisingly, poverty rates and structural racism also contribute to Black and Mexican American youth facing higher death rates than their White peers. 

Suicide and Homicide

While the Black infant mortality rate continue to rise, suicides and homicides make up a combined 40% of deaths among people ages 15 to 19, more than any other age group.  From 2013 to 2019, the suicide rate of Black boys and men 15 to 24 years old rose by 47 percent, and by 59 percent for Black girls and women of the same age.  

The study also found that early life is often characterized by experimentation, inexperience, and a sense of invincibility. which can result in unintentional injuries including drug and alcohol overdoses, motor vehicle accidents, recreational, and gun-related injuries.

Residents of U.S. southern states under age 25 tend to have higher rates of early life mortality than residents of states in other regions.

“The patterns and trends we document suggest that U.S. society could do much more to reduce deaths in early life, especially because so many of these deaths are due to injuries—homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries—that can be prevented. We find that such high early life death rates are strongly related to social and economic inequality that will persist without intervention.”