A report from America’s Health Rankings found an increase in teen suicide by 25 percent and an increase in infant mortality by 6 percent since their last report in 2016.
The most significant indicator of influence on youth health is geography. Teen suicide is 7.3 times higher in Alaska than in Rhode Island. Tobacco use among youth is 2.8 times higher in Kentucky than in Hawaii. Male youth have notably higher rates of child mortality and teen suicide than female youth. Child mortality is 1.8 times higher among males than females and teen suicide is three times higher among males than females, according to the report.
Drug deaths and maternal mortality are also up, according to the report. The rate of drug deaths among females ages 15-44 has increased 36 percent since 2016. In addition to geography as a significant determinant of health, there are striking disparities across the intersection of race and ethnicity, age, income, and education on maternal health. Black women and American Indian/Alaska Native women experience the highest and second highest maternal mortality rate at 3.8 times and 2.6 times, respectively, higher than the lowest rate among Asian/Pacific Islander women.
Since 2016, the report shows an 11 percent increase in excessive drinking among women ages 18-44. The percentage of 18-44-year-old women who report excessive drinking is 2.1 times higher among college graduates than those with less than a high school education.
The report highlights the impact socioeconomic factors have on the health of women, infants, and children. Varying greatly by state, the percentage of households in areas of concentrated disadvantage is 17 times higher in Mississippi than it is in Vermont. Areas of concentrated disadvantage encompass households headed by women (who are likely to face wage discrimination), higher percentages of children, higher percentages of persons unemployed, living in poverty, and receiving public assistance.
Despite these challenges, there has been progress made regarding other health measures. Nationally, the rate of teen births dropped from 24.2 to 18.8 births per 1,000 females ages 15-19. Smoking and tobacco use have also decreased since 2016 – smoking among women ages 18-44 decreased 12 percent since 2016, with significant decreases in nine states. Tobacco use during pregnancy and among youth also improved — decreasing 12 percent in the past year and 31 percent since 2016, respectively. Flu vaccinations, which are associated with reduced flu-related hospitalizations, have increased among women ages 18-44. Nearly 1.3 million more women in this age group received the flu vaccine this year than in 2016, an increase of 5 percent (from 32.8 percent to 34.4 percent).
Although the United States has made significant strides in health advancements in the past decade, this report is a troubling indication that equitable improvements in health have not been attained. Lower socioeconomic communities and disparities among race and ethnicity, gender, and education face far greater obstacles in their health successes. Recognizing and taking action on the challenges that prevent equitable health is necessary for the country’s well-being.