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Teen Birth Rates, Homicides on Increase, Report Shows

But deaths from accidents and smoking among eighth-graders are down, researchers add

FRIDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- The teen birth rate is up for the first time in 15 years, and homicides among teens are up for the first time in 12 years, a new government report finds.

On the plus side, there has been a drop in childhood deaths from injuries, and fewer eighth graders are smoking, according to the report, put out by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.

"The number of children in this country has increased, as it has been increasing for some time -- 73.7 million in 2006 to 73.9 million in 2007," Edward J. Sondik, director of the National Center for Health Statistics, said during a morning teleconference Thursday.

At the same time, the proportion of children in the population as a whole has decreased, from 24.6 percent in 2006 to 24.5 percent in 2007, Sondik said. "The trend is continuing, and we think it will reach 24 percent by 2020," he added.

Sondik noted that the proportion of Asian and Hispanic children in the population has increased. "In general, this population is becoming more diverse, as is the population as a whole," he said.

One disturbing trend among teens is the increased rate of births, Sondik said.

"The 2006 teen birth rate was up for the first time in 15 years," Sondik said. "This is only a single-year increase, but we believe it bears watching."

The birth rate among girls aged 15 to 17 increased from 21 births per 1,000 girls in 2005 to 22 per 1,000 in 2006. In 2005, there were 133,138 teen births, and, in 2006, there were 138,920, Sondik noted.

"A longstanding trend -- the increase in low birth weight infants continued unabated in 2006," Sondik said. The rate of low birth weight increased from 8.2 percent in 2005 to 8.3 percent in 2006.

One positive finding was that smoking rates have declined among some middle school students.

"Fewer eighth-graders are smoking now than they did a year ago," Sondik said. "But we didn't see any change between 2006 and 2007 among 10th- or 12th-graders."

Among eighth-graders, those who reported smoking cigarettes dropped from 4 percent in 2006 to 3 percent in 2007. This continues a decline in smoking among this group from a peak of 10 percent in 1996, Sondik noted.

Another disturbing trend is the increase in violent crimes and homicides committed by adolescents, Sondik said.

"Homicides increased in 2005 for the first time since 1993," Sondik said. "In 2005, the firearm homicide rate also increased for the first time in more than a decade."

Adolescents aged 12 to 17 who committed violent crimes increased from 14 crimes per 1,000 in 2004 to 17 per 1,000 in 2005. This is still a substantially lower rate than was seen in 1993, when there were 52 violent crimes per 1,000 adolescents, the report stated.

However, there was a decline in the number of deaths from injury among children aged 5 to 14. Deaths from injury dropped from 8.2 per 100,000 in 2004 to 7.7 per 100,000 in 2005. Deaths from injuries among adolescents aged 15 to 19 also dropped, from 51.3 per 100,000 in 2004 to 49.8 in 2005.

Other risky behaviors, such as alcohol and drug use, were unchanged, report authors noted.

From 2005 to 2006, the numbers of children with health insurance dropped to 88 percent from 89 percent. During that year, 8.7 million (12 percent) of the nation's children had no health insurance, according to the report.

Most American children (81 percent), aged 19 months to 30 months had their recommended vaccinations. This is up substantially from the 70 percent it was a decade ago, Sondik said.

The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics is a working group of agencies that collect, analyze, and report data on issues related to children and families. The group also has partners in private research organizations.

More information

To see the full report, visit the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.

SOURCES: July 10, 2008, teleconference with: Edward J. Sondik, Ph.D., director, National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2008

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