Publication date: 
January 25, 2016

This news release originally appeared in JAMA Pediatrics on 1/25/16.

A new report examines global and national trends in the fatal and nonfatal burden of diseases and injuries among children and adolescents in 188 countries based on results from the Global Burden of Disease 2013 study, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.

Data for estimates in the report by the Global Burden of Disease Pediatrics Collaboration come from vital records registration, verbal autopsy studies, maternal and child death surveillance, and other sources.

Among the key findings:

  • Globally, there were 7.7 million deaths among children and adolescents in 2013. Of those, nearly 6.3 million deaths occurred in children younger than 5, nearly a half million deaths among children ages 5 to 9, and nearly 1 million deaths among adolescents ages 10 to 19.
  • The leading causes of death among children younger than 5 globally in 2013 were lower respiratory tract infections, preterm birth complications, neonatal encephalopathy following birth trauma and asphyxia, malaria, and diarrheal deaths. These five causes accounted for 3.4 million deaths or 54% of all deaths among children younger than 5.
  • Among older children ages 5 to 9, the most common cause of death in 2013 was diarrheal disease, followed by lower respiratory tract infections, road injuries, intestinal infectious diseases (mainly typhoid and paratyphoid), and malaria. These five causes accounted for 181,000 deaths or 39% of deaths among children 5 to 9.
  • Among adolescents 10 to 19, the leading cause of death in 2013 was road injuries, followed by HIV/AIDS, self-harm, drowning, and intestinal infectious diseases. These five leading causes accounted for 34% of all deaths in this age group.
  • Half of the world’s diarrheal deaths among children and adolescents occurred in just five countries: India, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.
  • Iron-deficiency anemia was the leading cause of years lived with disability among children and adolescents, affecting 619 million in 2013.
  • Developing countries with rapid declines in all-cause mortality between 1990 and 2013 experienced large declines in mortality for most leading causes of death. Countries with the slowest declines in all-cause mortality showed either a stagnant or increasing trend in most of the leading causes of death.

The authors explained a variety of limitations to their report, including variations in collecting verbal autopsy data and the quality of the medical certification of causes of death.

“The vast majority of deaths in children and adolescents are preventable. Proven interventions exist to prevent diarrheal and respiratory diseases, neonatal conditions, iron deficiency anemia, and road injuries, which result in some of the highest burdens of unnecessary death and disability among children and adolescents. These findings presented herein show that these and other available interventions are underused and point to where more attention is needed. The findings indicate that proven health interventions could save millions of lives. Despite the general decline in mortality, the speed of the decline could still be faster,” the article concludes.

Editor’s Note: The article includes conflict of interest and funding/support disclosures. Please see article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, etc.

For more information, contact JAMA Network Media Relations at 312-464-JAMA (5262) or email [email protected].