U.S. children face high risk of violent death
Rate greater than 25 other developed countries
February 7, 1997
ATLANTA (CNN) -- American children are dying by suicide, homicide and gunfire at a greater rate than children in 25 other industrialized nations, a government study has found.
"Our children are getting killed or killing themselves at higher rates than any other country," said Dr. Etienne Krug, a medical epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted the study. "No child should die a violent death in the most industrialized country in the world." (64K/20 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
The study showed homicide rates are five times higher, suicide rates are double and firearm death rates are 12 times higher in the United States than in the other countries, Krug said.
In 1994, homicide was the third-leading cause of death for U.S. children aged 5 to 14 and fourth-leading cause for children 1 to 4. The CDC compared childhood death statistics with figures from 25 other countries that had similar economies and a population of at least 1 million.
Even if firearms-related homicides were excluded, the United States had a homicide rate for children almost four times the other countries' rate, the CDC said.
Guns were the primary cause of homicide among children in Finland, Israel, Australia, Italy, Germany and England. No children died from guns in Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Singapore, Japan and Kuwait, the CDC said. The main cause of the deaths wasn't specified in those countries.
The CDC study was statistical and did not attempt to identify a cause for the high rates, but Krug said researchers in other studies have identified high divorce rates, social acceptance of violence and low funding of social programs as contributing factors.
Gun control activist Sarah Brady said the latest study underlined the importance of keeping guns out of homes and off the streets, citing studies that a handgun in the home was 43 times more likely to be used to kill someone in the household or a friend rather than in self-defense.
"We've just got to do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of our nation's children," she said.
Gun Owners of America, a group which supports firearms, was skeptical of the CDC's findings.
"It's meaningless to compare the U.S. to other countries lumped together like that," said John Velleco, a spokesman for the Springfield, Virginia, group. "I think there is a problem with our young people. It's a serious problem not tied to the availability of firearms. They have never been more strictly regulated."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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