University study says nearly 40,000 American children have lost at least one parent to COVID-19

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(PENNSYLVANIA) — As vaccinations continue to rise and COVID-19 cases fall in many parts of the country, researchers are looking at the toll the pandemic had — and will continue to have — on Americans. 

To that end, Researchers at Penn State University estimate that nearly 40,000 American children have lost at least one parent to COVID-19, which the scientists say will take a toll on them emotionally and financially for years to come. 

Every 13th COVID death steals a parent from those most vulnerable, the researchers’ data revealed. These thousands of children and young people, some who were left orphans by the disease, are at a higher risk of not only “prolonged grief and depression,” researchers say, but also “lower educational attainment, and economic insecurity,” iand even accidental death and suicide. 

“When we think of COVID-19 mortality, much of the conversation focuses on the fact that older adults are the populations at greatest risk,” notes Ashton Verdery, an associate professor of sociology, demography and social data analytics, in a university press release.  But while roughly 81% of deaths have been among those ages 65 and older according to the CDC, “that leaves 19% of deaths among those under 65,” he explains, adding, “In these younger age groups, substantial numbers of people have children…”

The study notes that three-quarters of the children who have lost a parent to the disease are adolescents, while one in four are still in elementary school. 

The scientists’ findings also show that a fifth of the children losing parents to COVID are Black, a population that has been hit harder by the disease than others. That statistic is especially shocking considering Black children only make up about 14 percent of all youths in the U.S., Verdery and his team report.

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