In a new study from Stony Brook University, researchers found that around 40,000 children (est. between 37,000 and 43,000) had lost a parent due to the Covid-19 pandemic by February 2021.
This amounts to an average of one child losing a parent for every 13 Covid-19 deaths.
Children face immense challenges in the wake of the pandemic. While there have been anecdotal reports of children losing parents, this is the first study to estimate the increase in orphan rates nationwide.
The team says the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic for children – from heightened physical violence to food insecurity – will leave a mark on this generation.
Children are also increasingly experiencing parental death, which can have severe and lasting consequences.
The study combined data on Covid-19 mortality and simulated data on kinship networks to quantify how many children, ages zero to 17 years, in the U.S. have lost a parent over the course of the pandemic.
They found that between 37,000 and 43,000 more children had lost a parent by February – an 18 to 20 percent increase in orphaning compared to a typical year (i.e., a year without Covid-19).
The researchers point out that the burden will increase as the death toll from Covid-19 continues to mount.
They stress that the country needs to mobilize resources now, as well as sustain efforts to monitor this affected and vulnerable population of children into the future.
These children need schools to be open so they can socialize with a friend and access support. They need interventions that can help them deal with their grief and can prevent more severe mental health consequences down the road.
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The study is published in JAMA Pediatrics. One author of the study is Rachel Kidman, PhD.
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