It's riskier to be born in the US than any other wealthy nations, study finds. Istock

The US is the worst ranked country among 20 from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) when it comes to child mortality. US infants and those in their late-teens are far more likely to die than their counterparts in other wealthy nations. Infants are largely affected by perinatal health issues, while teens are succumbing to vehicle accidents and gun violence.

Scientists from the John Hopkins Hospital and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia analysed the child mortality rates of 20 countries between 1961 until 2010. Their study, published in Health Affairs, showed that the US was behind in its efforts to decrease children's deaths.

US and the OECD19

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • The Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom

In order to identify these US trends, the team of researchers looked at data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Human Mortality Database (HMD). They selected 19 OECD countries with levels of economic development similar to the US and with a similar political structure, referring to them as OECD19.

While all countries saw their mortality rates decline, the US started lagging behind from the 1980's onward and is still lagging today while spending more than all other countries on children's healthcare.

Data showed that infants in the US face 76% more risk of death than in the other countries. Children aged 1 to 19 are 57% more likely to die than their counterparts in OECD19.

The infant mortality rate began to rise in the late 1970s, and the teen mortality rate began to rise in the 1980s. By the 2000s, the US was the worst of the 20 countries on the list for child mortality.

In total, the United States "could have avoided" about 600,000 deaths since 1960, the study claims. 90% of those deaths occurred in infants or teens aged between 15 and 19 years old.

Causes of Death

Between 2000 and 2010, the two main causes of death for children under 1-year-old were premature birth and sudden infant death syndrome.

During that same time period, the two main causes of death for teens aged between 15 and 19 were motor vehicle accidents and gun violence.

While the study notes progress has been made when it comes to driving safety – thanks to campaigning, policy and infrastructure changes – rates for assaults by firearm are through the roof. In the last decade, teens between 15 and 19 years old in the US were 82 times more likely to die from gun violence than teens in any other country on the list.

The study suggests that such differences settled over time because different US governments were unable to tackle poverty, provide better education and reform their "fragmented" healthcare system, all factors that play an important role into a child's development and general health.

<sup>Note: This article was updated to correct a statistic from 82% to 82 times more likely.