1.5 million children have lost parent or guardian to COVID-19-associated death: research

Tray Ling

More than 1.5 million children worldwide have lost a parent, custodial grandparent or grandparent who lived in their household due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research. A study published in The Lancet on Thursday found 1,562,000 children lost a parent or residing grandparent to a death relating to […]

More than 1.5 million children worldwide have lost a parent, custodial grandparent or grandparent who lived in their household due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research.

A study published in The Lancet on Thursday found 1,562,000 children lost a parent or residing grandparent to a death relating to the virus during the first 14 months of the pandemic.

The study counted deaths that were a direct result of the pandemic “and those caused indirectly by other associated causes, such as lockdowns, restrictions on gatherings and movement, decreased access or acceptability of health care and of treatment for chronic diseases,” a press release from the National Institutes of Health states.

The study used data regarding excess mortality from the U.S. as well as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, England and Wales, France, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain and Zimbabwe.

Children lost their father five times more than their mother, as more men have died from COVID-19-associated deaths than women, according to the study. 

Most children only lost one, not both, of their parents, but researchers stress the serious consequences of a child losing a parent early in life.

Deaths of primary caregivers were highest in the U.S., South Africa, Peru, India, Brazil and Mexico.

“Studies like this play a crucial role in illuminating the COVID-19 pandemic’s long-lasting consequences for families and the future mental health and wellbeing of children across the globe,” said National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora D. Volkow, whose organization funded the research.

“Though the trauma a child experiences after the loss of a parent or caregiver can be devastating, there are evidence-based interventions that can prevent further adverse consequences, such as substance use, and we must ensure that children have access to these interventions,” Volkow added.

Globally, there have been more than 4 million coronavirus deaths recorded, although the number is likely higher due to difficulty in tracking cases in some countries. 

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