Around 7,000 babies born this year will lose their mother before they turn 16, statistics reveal – and the number could be ‘twice as high’ for fathers
- Those who lose a parent during childhood are vulnerable, experts said
- Analysis of figures by ONS found that 1% of children will lose their mother
- They said the figures highlight the volume of young people who need support
Around 7,000 babies born in England and Wales this year will lose their mothers before they turn 16, statistics have revealed.
And twice as many could go through the death of their father before adulthood, one expert has suggested.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) looked at historical statistics to work out around one per cent of mothers die before their child’s 16th birthday.
These children are at higher risk of mental health problems as they age, experts warn, and the figures could be use to better target support to thousands of people.
Thousands of babies born every year will lose their mother before they turn 16, statistics show (stock image)
The ONS used data from families between 1971 and 2000 to estimate that, in a given year, one in every 100 new mothers will die before their child reaches 16.
Using this percentage, they suggest that around 7,000 children born this year will go through the traumatic experience.
Their workings were based on the estimated total number of under-16s in the two countries in 2017 – approximately 11.2million people.
In the 29 years covered by the study, between 5,500 and 8,500 children suffered the bereavement each year.
The data in the area for loss of father is less clear, the statisticians said, but they estimate the father’s death could be twice as likely.
Nick Stripe, spokesperson for the ONS said: ‘Based on known mortality trends, the number of children who experience the death of their father by this age could be around twice as high as our estimate for mothers.’
Iain Bell, deputy national statistician, added: ‘This data opens a window into another potentially vulnerable section of our population.
‘The information today gives us an idea of the scale of who is affected but we want to be able to shine a light on the impact early bereavement can have; what the effect of losing a parent is likely to be on a child and the challenges they might face in later life.
‘As an organisation, we are looking at how we can provide better statistics to help make better decisions to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our society.’
The ONS is already examining in more depth how the loss of a parent affects educational achievement.
Charities have urged the NHS to protect the mental health of children who suffer the tragic loss of a parent, saying there is almost no support services.
The charities’ warnings came days after Princes Harry and William spoke of the devastating effect their mother’s death had on them.
The Duke of Sussex was 12 when his mother, Princess Diana, died in 1997.
In 2017 he confessed he had been ‘very close’ to a mental breakdown on numerous occasions.
How Harry bottled up his grief over Princess Diana
In interviews last year to mark the 20th anniversary of his mother’s death, Prince Harry admitted how bottling up his emotions made a devastating impact on his mental health.
He had, he confessed, been ‘very close’ to a complete mental breakdown on numerous occasions.
The turmoil over his emotions saw him endure two years of what he described as ‘total chaos’ before seeking professional counselling on the advice of Prince William.
He disclosed that he had only begun to address this grief when, at the age of 28, he had felt himself to be ‘on the verge of punching someone’ while also facing anxiety when carrying out official engagements.
In a video filmed for the Heads Together campaign last year, Harry and William admitted that they hadn’t spoken to each other enough in the past about their mother’s death.
Harry said: ‘We’ve never really talked about losing a mum at such a young age.’
‘I always thought, what’s the point of bringing up something that’s only going to make you sad. It ain’t going to change it. It ain’t going to bring her back,’
He is now an outspoken mental health advocate along with his brother William and sister-in-law the Duchess of Cambridge, who are aiming to change the conversation around mental health with their Heads Together campaign.