By Margot Sanger Katz, New York Times
For the first time in over a decade, the death rate in the United States is rising, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported. The news is the latest in a string of headlines about the shortening lives of Americans, particularly the white middle-aged: “Disparity in Life Spans of the Rich and the Poor Is Growing.” “White Americans Are Dying Younger as Drug and Alcohol Abuse Rises.” “U.S. Suicide Rate Surges to a 30-Year High.”
But there are happier trends that have received a lot less attention: The health of American children is improving sharply, and the health gap between the rich and the poor among children and young adults is shrinking. The research suggests that future generations of Americans may not reach old age with the same ailments and inequalities as today’s older Americans.
Death rates among children always tend to be low, but the new data show large reductions in the number of American children who die. The mortality rate for children has declined by 52 deaths per 100,000 children between 1990 and 2010, according to new research in Science. To put that in context, the recently reported rise in suicides was an increase of fewer than three per 100,000 people. And the death rates fell faster for children living in the poorest counties in the country.
The good news for children suggests that it is possible that today’s distressing trends can be stopped, or even reversed. A…