How Common Is Child Loss?
By Ben Gillham, Jackson’s Dad
October is Pregnancy, Infant and Child Loss Awareness Month. In a society that has historically encouraged the act of grieving to be done privately and in a society in which the loss of children has decreased over the years with advances in medicine, sanitation, water treatment, etc., fewer and fewer people realize how common the loss of a child is. This month of awareness is increasingly important to help educate those impacted by the loss of a child so that when the worst happens, parents, family and friends can appropriately support each other.
When I lost my son, I was dumbfounded about how this kind of thing could happen in today’s age. I didn’t think I could go from having a seemingly healthy baby boy to being sick in the PICU to passing away all in a matter of days. Of course, as reality hit my wife and me like a ton of bricks sitting in that hospital room, we also said there must be more than just us out there. In the weeks and months after our loss, we began to find other parents like us.
Of course being an analyst by day, I wanted to know how common is child loss and began looking for data. As I explored it, I wanted to share what I learned with others to help them understand that child loss is NOT as rare as we’d like it to be and to increase awareness around the need for more support. All of my findings are available on the child loss statistics section of our site. For Child Loss Awareness month, I thought I’d share some of the particular numbers that stood out the most to me. As the saying goes, what gets measured, gets improved. Decreasing child loss is one thing we always need to improve.
Every 10 Minutes a Parent Loses a Child
Hearing this number is heart-breaking, but also highlights the importance of having the appropriate support and resources for parents, family and friends on an otherwise taboo topic.
50% of Child Loss Occurs Before Age 1
Of all child loss between the ages of zero and 20, 50% of it occurs under the age of one. I always thought the first birthday was a big occasion, but after seeing this number I place even more emphasis on it. Reaching the age of one is a huge achievement and should include a celebration like no other!
Boys Are 61% of All Child Loss
Before coming across this number, I would’ve hypothesized that the split would have been 50/50 (boys/girls) or maybe even slightly skewed to 51/49 or 52/48 … but not 61/39. Breaking this number down by age, we actually see that the number starts out as 56/44 under 1 year old and grows to 75/25 by the age of 19. The boys’ number appears to grow as our sons become teenagers.
Black/African American Deaths Are Disproportionate to U.S. Population
This concept is often mentioned in media, but I thought it is still immensely important to call out. Blacks/African Americans make up 17% of the U.S. population, but make up 27% of total child loss. This difference is unacceptable and is a number we should tackle as a society together. No one should have to face child loss and certainly not one race more than another.
Child Loss Year-over-Year is Trending Down
Although the raw number of child deaths still surpases 40,000 every year, the positive news is that the rate of child loss is trending down year over year since 1999.
If you’ve experienced the loss of a child, you know that no matter what the numbers say, your child was unique and special beyond any level of measure to you and your family and friends. My son Jackson was the world to me and therefore certainly way more than just a number. I hope that this data can offer hope that you’re not alone in your loss so that you might find a parent like you to grieve with … a parent who understands what it’s like to have a memory of your child that causes you to cry one minute but laugh the next and realize that feeling is totally normal. The numbers show that there are many new grieving parents each year, and from experience we have found that connecting with them can be challenging. We created Just Enduring to help make these connections and provide the much needed resources for bereaved parents.
Visit our child loss statistics page to learn more, where you can also explore our interactive dashboards to find data on the specific question you might have.