COVID-19 has led to widespread job loss in the United States. And now a new study reports that when unemployment rates rise, so do hospitalizations of children.
For the study, researchers analyzed 12 years of data — 2002 to 2014 — from 14 states. They found that for every 1% increase in unemployment, there was a 2% increase in child hospitalizations for all causes, among them diabetes and poisonings.
Specifically, every 1% bump in unemployment was associated with a 5% increase in hospitalizations for substance abuse and a 4% jump for diabetes. The researchers also found a 2% increase for poisoning and burns, and a 2% rise for children with medical complexity — a high need for prescriptions, medical equipment or services.
For children with diabetes and other forms of medical complexity, reduced family income could mean they’re less likely to receive medical services. This could raise their risk of hospitalizations, the study authors suggested.
It’s also possible that poor housing conditions brought on by slimmer wallets could increase children’s risk of poisonings and burns. And higher household stress due to unemployment might increase alcohol and drug use.
Further research is needed to understand how to prevent declining health in children during economic downturns, said study author Dr. Jeffrey Colvin, of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., and his colleagues.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded study was published in the October issue of the journal Health Affairs.
The study relied on data from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on children’s health.
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