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New Study Reveals Nearly 40,000 Children Have Lost At Least 1 Parent Due To Covid-19

As the vaccination drive goes underway, people are starting to go back to life before the pandemic. Across the country, schools are reopening with new safety guidelines. However, a new model has recently suggested that close to 40,000 children in the US have lost at least one parent due to Covid-19. 

New Study Reveals Nearly 40,000 Children Have Lost At Least 1 Parent Due To Covid-19

The research letter that has identified this issue states that a result of this pandemic is an ‘ever growing number of Covid orphans’. The letter was published on Monday on the JAMA Pediatrics. 

New Study Reveals Nearly 40,000 Children Have Lost At Least 1 Parent Due To Covid-19

The research letter was headed by Rachel Kidman from the Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University. She said that the numbers are at an estimated 37,300 to 43,000 children affected, amongst whom Black Children represent a staggering 20% of that number. This is especially shocking as black children represent only 14% of the total American children. 

Rachek Kidman and her co-authors used the parental bereavement multiplier to estimate the number of affected children who may have lost a parent due to Covid-19. Their model suggested that every death that has occured due to Covid-19 leaves 0.078 children, between the age of 0-17 years parentally bereaved. The parental bereavement has thus risen after Covid-19 hit the country from 17.5% to 20.2%. 

The report stated that as of February 2021, 37,300 children between 0-17 years of age had lost at least one parent, three-fourth of whom were adolescents. 

Although a 2.7% change indicates a small fraction, the numbers are huge, as mentioned above. 

When the research team took excess deaths into consideration, it was estimated that 43,000 children have been parentally bereaved. When the team looked into the herd immunity strategy, the numbers were even more horrific. The 1.5 million deaths due to natural herd immunity strategy showed 116,900 children who have lost a parent. 

However, these estimations rely on modeling and not any survey or data and do not include bereavement of non-parental primary caregivers. Another limitation of the study was that it also does not quantify the number of children who may have lost more than one parent. 

The authors suggested that ‘sweeping national reforms’ would be needed to check the side-effects of the pandemic such as parental bereavement. They contended that children who may have lost more than one parent should be supported by establishing a national child bereavement cohort to monitor these children and link them with local support systems & agencies. They also outlined the importance of having a basis for understanding the long-term effects of losing a parent during the pandemic. 

As per a study from 2018 by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry closely monitored children who had lost a parent versus those who have not. 

The study, which lasted 7 years, showed that there were instances of  increased depression and post-traumatic stress disorder among children who had lost a parent. Additionally, they found that such incidents can also build suicidal tendencies in children. 

Psychological experts have outlined the importance of encouraging such children to share their tragedy and seek support for their loss. 

There are a number of agencies in the US like the National Child Traumatic Stress Network which seeks to give emotional support to parentally bereaved children in the country. 

The Coronavirus, which started spreading more than a year back has so far infected 30.8 million Americans and has claimed 555,000 lives so far. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that as of 5th April 2021, nearly 107.5 million people have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine shots, while 62.4 million people have been fully vaccinated. 

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