Study: 40,000 US kids have lost a parent to COVID-19

An estimated 40,000 children in the U.S. have lost at least one parent to COVID-19, new findings suggest, with adolescents accounting for the majority of the total.

Researchers from Stony Brook University published findings in JAMA Pediatrics on Monday, which suggested 37,300 kids under the age of 17 lost a parent to COVID-19, as of February 2021. 

"It's one of the most stressful experiences a child can have," said Greg Rogers, UW Health.

FILE - Parents pick up their children from school on March 1, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The report in JAMA Pediatrics shows about 40,000 kids in the United States have lost at least one parent to COVID-19. Researchers say the total marks a 20% increase compared to the numbers of kids losing a parent during a typical year. 

"It was predominately adolescents that we affected by the death of a parent to COVID," said Rogers.

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The study also found Black children are disproportionately affected, making up 14% of U.S. children but 20% of those who lost a parent to COVID-19.

"The mitigation efforts that we can undertake not only save lives from COVID but can also prevent a huge amount of this type of fallout like losing loved ones," said Rogers.

Experts warn of trauma. A co-author of the study advocated for the reopening of schools to boost socialization for children. Rogers promotes support and positive intervention involving a surviving parent to help kids process the death during a challenging time. 

"I'd tell them to keep their siblings and surviving parent close," said Rogers."Stay connected to them communicate with them."

Researchers called for national reforms to help treat the grief and emotional pain children who lost a parent to the pandemic are suffering.