The death of a child - whether an infant or aging adult - creates untold suffering for the parents and families they leave behind. Bereaved parents face health, social, and economic setbacks following such a loss. According to the Institute of Medicine, losing a child is one of the most significant and enduring stresses an individual can experience. Parents are likely to suffer from depressive symptoms, poorer well-being, more health problems and marital disruption. Mothers, in particular, face an increased risk of psychiatric hospitalization in the first five years following the death.  They also experience increased mortality from both unnatural and natural causes, while fathers experience increased mortality from unnatural causes (i.e., suicide and accidents).

Fetal Mortality

MacDorman M, Kirmeyer S. The challenge of fetal mortality. NCHS data brief, no 16. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fetal mortality refers to spontaneous intrauterine death at any time during a pregnancy. While, the National Survey of Family Growth estimates as many as one million fetal deaths occur in the United States annually, other scientific estimates have concluded it is not possible to quantify the number of miscarriages annually.

Fetal deaths occurring at 20 weeks or more are classified into two categories: 20-27 weeks of gestation and 28 or more weeks of gestation. Often, these forms of loss are referred to as stillbirths.

In 2005, 25,894 stillbirths were reported in the United States. Conversely, there were 28,384 infant deaths during the same time frame.

Mortality Data for All Ages

Drawing from the CDC data, there are nearly 400,000 child deaths per year. Because all children matter, young and old, and no government agency collects data on parent and sibling survivorship following the death of a child, we include deaths up to age 54, an age where it is conceivable an aging parent is surviving to cope with the aftermath of their loss.

It is important to note that our projections are likely an underestimate of the true prevalence and incidence of the issue, but our conservative projections indicate an extensive population health crisis facing families across the country, in all wealth brackets, from all religions beliefs, and all races. 

Further, our conservative estimates focus on the number of children dying, not the number of parents and siblings surviving the event. Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, the number of Americans impacted by a child death may be more than a million annually.

Kochanek KD, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2014. National vital statistics reports; vol 65 no 4. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016.

CDC's death report does not include stillbirth data in its annual assessment. Stillbirth deaths have been added to this data to capture a more accurate number of child deaths in America. Miscarriage and missing children are not included. There are an unknown number of miscarriages in the United States each year and a child is assumed to be alive, unless found.

Mortality Data for All Ages by Cause of Death

From stillbirth to age 54 the top causes of death are accidents (67,532), followed by cancer (63, 926), heart disease (49,876), stillbirth (25,894), suicide (25,314), and homicide (11,760).

Delineated below are the top five leading causes of death by age and cause. Accidents are denoted in blue, while homicide is highlighted in yellow, suicide is noted in orange, and medical causes of death have no shading. 

Kochanek KD, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2014. National vital statistics reports; vol 65 no 4. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016.