Youth Suicide Rates Climbs To 20-Year High In The United States

  • About 6,241 individuals [aged 15 to 24 years] committed suicide in 2017. 
  • Increase in social media use, depression, anxiety, and self-inflicted injuries are the main reason behind this sharp surge. 
  • In teenagers aged 15 to 19 years, the suicide rate was 12 per 100,000, compared to 8 deaths per 100,000 in 2000. 

Statistics show that incredibly diverse countries have the highest suicide rates in the world. The eastern European country of Lithuania, for example, has a population of 2.7 over million, where 880 cases of suicide happen every year.

Suicide rates in the U.S, on the other hand, have reached their highest since World War II. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, 14 out of every 100,000 Americans committed suicide in 2017.

The situation is even worse in teens and youth adults. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported suicide rates in youths aged 15 to 24 years have reached their highest point since 2000. Compared to previous decades, it’s an incredibly sharp increase.

The team looked at the Centers for Disease Underlying Cause of Death database, which is publicly available. They pinpointed suicide based on the International Statistical Classification of Disease and Related Health Problems, 10th Revision codes from 2000 to 2017.

Age adjusted suicide rate in the USThe age-adjusted suicide rate in the US | Chart: Jamie Ducharme for TIME

In this study, researchers analyzed ages 20 to 24 years and 15 to 19 years for both boys and girls and evaluated time points at which trends changed.

They found a strong surge (14%) in suicide rates among teen boys from 2015 to 2017. For girls, this rate increased by 8% per year from 2000 to 2017.

Reference: JAMA | DOI:10.1001/jama.2019.5054 

The main reason behind these suicides could be an increase in social media use, depression, anxiety, and self-inflicted injuries. The opioid epidemic could be another fueling part of the rise.

These days, most teenagers are ‘programmed’ to achieve goals and have little time to enjoy their youth. Some of them are exposed to violence, some face issues like family instability, and some fail to withstand the pressure of competition and society.

On top of that, alcohol, drugs and even guns are easily available, which can intensify suicidal thoughts or feelings.

Annual percentage change suicide rateAnnual percentage change (APC) in suicide rates at ages 15-19 years

About 6,241 individuals [aged 15 to 24 years] committed suicide in 2017, of which 1,225 were girls and 5,016 were boys. In teenagers aged 15 to 19 years, the suicide rate was 12 per 100,000, compared to 8 deaths per 100,000 in 2000.

Like other studies, it does have its limitations: the cause of death in the database could sometimes be incorrect. For instance, suicides using opioids are often mistaken for accidental overdose.

Read: Female Brains Are 3 Years Younger Than Male’s

Future research will analyze the causes of reduction in suicides in the 1990s, in order to explore potential factors and develop prevention measures.

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a professional science and technology journalist and a big fan of AI, machines, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from Indraprastha University. To find out about his latest projects, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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