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About 40,000 Children Have Lost a Parent to COVID-19

MONDAY, April 5, 2021 -- An estimated 37,300 to 43,000 children have lost a parent to COVID-19, according to a research letter published online April 5 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Rachel Kidman, Ph.D., from Stony Brook University in New York, and colleagues estimated the expected number of affected children for each COVID-19 death and then used the parental bereavement multiplier to estimate the total scope of parental bereavement based on various scenarios of COVID-19 casualty and excess death figures.

According to the researchers, the model suggests that each COVID-19 death leaves 0.078 children aged 0 to 17 parentally bereaved -- a 17.5 to 20.2 percent increase in parental bereavement absent COVID-19. Based on the bereavement multiplier, as of February 2021, 37,300 children aged 0 to 17 years had lost at least one parent due to COVID-19. Three-quarters of children who lost a parent were adolescents. Black children are disproportionately affected by loss of a parent, comprising only 14 percent of the U.S. child population but 20 percent of those losing a parent to COVID-19. When using excess death data, an estimated 43,000 children have lost a parent. If the United States relied up on a natural herd immunity strategy that results in 1.5 million deaths, there would be 116,900 parentally bereaved children.

"The establishment of a national child bereavement cohort could identify children who have lost parents, monitor them for early identification of emerging challenges, link them to locally delivered care, and form the basis for a longitudinal study of the long-term effects of mass parental bereavement during a uniquely challenging time of social isolation and economic uncertainty," the authors write.

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